2011 Joint AAPM/COMP Meeting
Scott Smith, GE Global Research, Niskayuna, NY, 12309, United States
For more information about the American Association of Physicists in Medicine, visit aapm.org/
Ultrasound is used more often than any other medical imaging modality because
compared to the alternatives it is fast, safe, portable, and inexpensive. Moreover
ultrasound has evolved symbiotically with advances in integrated electronics to
allow increasingly higher image quality, along with enhanced functional
information, like color flow, perfusion, tissue-strain, and elasticity imaging. It has
now become possible to incorporate in compact instruments capabilities that were
only available in full size consoles a decade ago.
Imagers consist of a sensor that both transmits and receives ultrasound, an
electronic beamformer to create focused beams of energy, a mid processor to
convert these into grey scale images or functional information, and a display
module for output. User interface and control elements complete the units. Three
key technologies drive ultrasound miniaturization. First, integrated electronics that
allow more processing per volume and per watt are important for both the analog
front end as well as the digital beamforming and mid processing units. Second,
advances in CPU, and now GPUs, along with simpler software platforms allow
many of the functions that used to be done in dedicated hardware to be done in
software. Third, the migration of beamforming into the probe shrinks the cable
diameter and distributes processing and power consumption.
Several examples from recent progress will be used to illustrate these points: the
introduction of laptop, tablet, and hand-held imagers; automatic image
optimization to simplify the user experience, and automatic physiological
parameter estimates. Recent studies show that in some cases the diagnostic utility
of small ultrasound imagers matches results from the larger and more costly
consoles. Ultrasound imaging will be adopted in more point-of-care and rural
settings. Spurred by technological innovations, the ability of ultrasound to address
quality, access, and cost issues will likely increase its utilization worldwide.
Research supported by General Electric Corporation
1. Be able to describe the operation of the major parts of an ultrasound
2. Appreciate recent advances in probes and microelectronics.
3. Understand how engineering specifications impact the diagnostic
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