Continuous 3D deep-tissue monitoring possible with ultrasound patch
Image credit: Dreamstime
An ultrasound patch that can provide three-dimensional imaging of tissues as deep as four centimetres below the surface of human skin has been developed by engineers at the University of California San Diego.
The elastography monitoring system can provide ongoing, non-invasive mapping of deep tissues which can be used to measure progression of diseases such as cancer, which normally causes cells to stiffen, as well as monitoring muscles, tendons and ligaments to diagnose and treat sports injuries.
“We invented a wearable device that can frequently evaluate the stiffness of human tissue,” said Hongjie Hu, a postdoctoral researcher and study co-author.
“In particular, we integrated an array of ultrasound elements into a soft elastomer matrix and used wavy serpentine stretchable electrodes to connect these elements, enabling the device to conform to human skin for serial assessment of tissue stiffness.”
Current treatments for liver and cardiovascular illnesses, along with some chemotherapy agents, may also affect tissue stiffness which can be monitored by the patches.
The researchers said they can be used in the same way as traditional ultrasound machines, but do not need to take place in hospitals or use staff for their operation.
“This allows patients to continuously monitor their health status anytime, anywhere,” Hu said.
This could help reduce misdiagnoses and fatalities, as well as significantly cutting costs by providing a non-invasive and low-cost alternative to traditional diagnostic procedures.
“This new wave of wearable ultrasound technology is driving a transformation in the healthcare monitoring field, improving patient outcomes, reducing healthcare costs and promoting the widespread adoption of point-of-care diagnosis,” said study coauthor Yuxiang Ma. “As this technology continues to develop, it is likely that we will see even more significant advances in the field of medical imaging and healthcare monitoring.”
The array conforms to human skin and acoustically couples with it which allows for accurate elastographic imaging, the team said.
In testing, the device was used to map three-dimensional tissues to detect microstructural damage in the muscles of volunteers prior to the onset of soreness and monitor the dynamic recovery process of muscle injuries during physiotherapy.
The device consists of a 16 by 16 array. Each element is composed of a 1-3 composite element and a backing layer made from a silver-epoxy composite designed to absorb excessive vibration.
In addition to monitoring cancerous tissues, this technology can also be applied in other scenarios such as fibrosis and cirrhosis of the liver, assessing musculoskeletal disorders such as tendonitis, and diagnosising myocardial ischemia, which is a heart condition.
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