New medical imaging solution improves contrast, resolution and depth

A new advance in elastography from The Technology Partnership could lead to improvements in surgical procedures and enhance a doctor’s ability to navigate around the body during operations.

Elastography is a medical imaging technique that maps the elastic properties of soft tissue to provide diagnostic information during surgery.

The process determines the stiffness of tissue and can be adapted to measure the level of muscle contraction. Cancerous cells, for example, will often be profoundly stiffer than the surrounding tissue and diseased livers are stiffer than healthy ones.

Traditional elastography relies on creating displacement in the tissue by inducing a distortion by sending a shear wave through the tissue or by vibrating the surface of the tissue.

TTP’s patent-pending approach is said to use a process of Passive Elastography, which relies on the body’s normal physiological distortions such as the beating of the heart, respiration of the lungs or the expansion and contraction of the blood vessels.

Using ultrasound frequencies between 5 and 40MHz, TTP captures sets of two or three ultrasound images at a time and measures the displacement caused by the body’s natural movement – typically around 10 microns amplitude within each set of images. TTP then looks at the structural changes visible from the data to map muscle stiffness or muscle contraction and displays this as a colour-map over the top of the ultrasound image. The result looks similar to a heat map with a resolution of around 0.5mm and up to a depth of around 50mm.

The strain imaging technology is designed for integration with existing ablation instruments or probes, to give surgeons the ability to visualise work which would otherwise be blind.

In a statement, TTP’s Paul Galluzzo said: “When we started looking at ultrasound imaging for these surgical applications, it became clear that there is a need for a new imaging solution, which has enough contrast, resolution and image depth.

“For example, optical methods such as OCT [optical coherence tomography] and photo acoustics provide good contrast but inadequate imaging depth in this case, while electrical impedance spectroscopy does not produce an image and traditional ultrasound can’t always tell the difference between live and dead tissue during ablation.

“Our new Passive Elastography approach gives surgeons much greater visibility, which increases clinical efficacy.  Ultimately the goal is to reduce the number of re-interventions, reduce mortality rates and accelerate procedure times for all ‘blind’ medical procedures.”