March 7, 2014
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta) have developed a prototype ultrasound camera capable of transmitting image data from within a blood vessel or a heart at 60 frames per second. The forward-looking 3-D images produced by the device will provide significantly more information than existing cross-sectional ultrasound.

Team leader F. Levent Degertekin, PhD, of Georgia Tech’s George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, explained the advantages of the device in a press release:

“If you’re a doctor, you want to see what is going on inside the arteries and inside the heart, but most of the devices being used for this today provide only cross-sectional images. If you have an artery that is totally blocked, for example, you need a system that tells you what’s in front of you. You need to see the front, back and sidewalls altogether. That kind of information is basically not available at this time. Our device will allow doctors to see the whole volume that is in front of them within a blood vessel. This will give cardiologists the equivalent of a flashlight so they can see blockages ahead of them in occluded arteries. It has the potential for reducing the amount of surgery that must be done to clear these vessels.”

The device integrates capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducer (CMUT) arrays with signal processing electronics to provide three-dimensional intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) and intracardiac echography (ICE) images. The dual-ring transducer array includes 56 ultrasound transmit elements and 48 receive elements. The assembled device is just 1.5 mm in diameter around a 430-μm guidewire hole.

The transducer array sits on a complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) chip fabricated on the 35-μmprocess. The chip incorporates a 25-V pulser for each transmitter, and a low-noise capacitive transimpedance amplifier for each receiver. It also carries digital control and smart power management circuitry. The system requires only 13 external connections and provides 4 parallel radio-frequency outputs. It consumes an average of 20 mW power.

According to the Georgia Tech press release, “the researchers expect to conduct animal trials to demonstrate the device’s potential applications. They ultimately expect to license the technology to an established medical diagnostic firm to conduct the clinical trials necessary to obtain FDA approval.”

The scientists have published their work online in the February 2014 issue of the journal IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control.

In addition to Degertekin, the research team included Jennifer Hasler, PhD, Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Mustafa Karaman, a professor at Istanbul Technical University; Coskun Tekes, a postdoctoral fellow in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering; Gokce Gurun and Jaime Zahorian, recent graduates of Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Georgia Tech PhD students Toby Xu and SarpSatir.

Research leading to the device’s development was supported by an award from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Stephen Levy is a contributor to Qmed and MPMN.


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