A NEW PARADIGM FOR ULTRASOUND
Advancements in scientific discovery are often wondrous in cases where “routine” or “everyday technology” is harnessed and transformed beyond its original usage. While many people are content, if not relieved, when the lights switch on or the ice-maker dispenses, engineers often look beyond the technology of today and toy with the notion “What If…?” or “Why not…?”
Thus, you have stories like American engineer Percy Spencer working with radio signal and radar technology developed during World War II. A melted candy bar in his pocket led to the discovery of microwave heating – the salvation of bachelors, working parents, and college students throughout the world.
Similarly today, groundbreaking new applications for ultrasound technology in disease treatment are being discovered. Worldwide, those primarily in usage today involve prostate cancer, uterine fibroids and liver cancer, comprising over 80% of recorded procedures. the impact this emerging use of ultrasound will have is truly amazing.
Current studies and procedures are based on utilizing a property of ultrasound propagation that we have traditionally been concerned with minimizing: Mechanical and Thermal Bioeffects.
Intrepid researchers, however, posed the following questions:
What if we intentionally create bioeffects to damage diseased tissues ?
What if we increase temperature to improve drug targeting ?
What if we disrupt cells to allow for drug transport ?
What if we cavitate injected bubbles to target drug or gene delivery ?
…and from the answers to these premises, whole fields are now in development. These technologies have the potential to impact cardiovascular, neurological, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, and endocrinal diseases.
Exciting research is advancing in the field of High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) technology. Here, by focusing multiple intersecting beams toward a targeted point of convergence, disease tissue can be precisely eradicated while leaving surrounding healthy tissue unaffected. As referenced previously, this is ideal in the treatment of small, localized tumorous masses (prostate, liver), but also holds promise for treatment of what are currently considered inoperable brain tumors.
As sonographic professionals, these new technologies should excite you for the promise of greater involvement and advancement in your career field. For those of you considering an entry into this profession, it represents broader specialization possibilities, and its accompanying success.
–Frank Miele, MSEE , President of Pegasus Lectures, Inc. Frank graduated cum laude from Dartmouth College with a triple major in physics, mathematics, and engineering. While at Dartmouth, he was a Proctor Scholar and received citations for academic excellence in comparative literature, atomic physics and quantum mechanics, and real analysis. Frank was a research and design engineer and project leader, designing ultrasound equipment and electronics for more than ten years at Hewlett Packard Company. As a designer of ultrasound, he has lectured across the country to sonographers, physicians, engineers and students on myriad topics.
*** A Special ‘Thank You‘ to Focused Ultrasound Foundation for use of images, statistical and industry research.