Portable ultrasound technology is improving and becoming more affordable, allowing it to be used in places previously impossible due to size and cost. Full size ultrasound imagers can do some impressive stuff, such as creating 3D reconstructions obtained from 2D probes. Now researchers at Duke University are introducing incredibly cheap and easy to integrate technology that can convert any 2D ultrasound into a 3D imaging system.
It works thanks to a $10 sensor chip that detects the orientation of an ultrasound probe. As the probe is used to scan the body, the chip’s readings are combined with the 2D data coming from the probe’s transducer to properly stitch it together, resulting in a volumetric dataset. This data can then be viewed much like MRI and CT scans, letting physicians view 3D models or to virtually slice through the volume.
The chip is integrated into a snap-on attachment that can be connected to any ultrasound probe. A computer is used to grab the output video signal of an ultrasound machine and the chip on the ultrasound probe is connected to the same computer. The computer then does the stitching and displays the output on its screen.
Because the technology doesn’t require any particular skills to perform the imaging, the researchers even envision patients themselves scanning a body part that they feel is at pain. The physician would then simply look at the 3D scan to use in the diagnosis.
The new technology is being shown off at the ongoing American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) Research Forum in Washington, D.C.