School of Engineering

Ultrasound Imaging

Ultrasound Imaging

Since 2008 work has been carried out to develop a very inexpensive technology for medical ultrasound scanning, drawing upon many years of innovation in sonar signal processing.

The aim of this work has been to create a product which could be manufactured for £30-40 and hence enable the use of ultrasound imaging in applications or regions of the world where it is currently cost prohibitive.

A number of approaches have been investigated and the most promising has now been developed into prototype units which have been evaluated on phantoms and are now being evaluated for various clinical applications.

Technology overview

In order to achieve the target price, the device needs to be manufactured for £30-40 which places huge constraints on the component costs. Hence the design philosophy has been to use the minimum possible hardware in the scanning head and connect to any available PC (via USB) to perform signal/image processing and display.

Furthermore, the construction of multichannel phased array transducers would far exceed the target cost and so a single transducer element must be used. To minimise the cost of electronic circuitry and produce high-resolution images from a single fixed focus transducer, several innovative approaches from sonar signal processing have been applied.

Echo data is gathered as the transducer is scanned back and forth across the skin and the PC then performs the focusing and other operations to generate an image up to 4 times per second.

In the current prototype the ultrasound frequency and scan dimensions have been chosen to match that of convex array scanners typically used for obstetrics and general abdominal imaging but the parameters could be adapted to suit other applications.

The only significant limitation of the technology is that it may not able to generate images at high enough frame rates to image dynamic organs such as the heart effectively.

Results

Results from the Laboratory Trials

Ultrasound Results from the Laboratory Trials

 

Results from the Clinical Trials

Ultrasound Results from the Clinical Trials

The team are currently working on a project to turn this technology into a commercial product, incorporating recent advances in the design to improve resolution, signal-to-noise ratio, frame rate and ease of use by less skilled operators.

The new design also incorporates a novel, very low-cost motor assembly to automatically scan the transducer with minimal energy (USB bus limited) and electromagnetic interference. The work is in collaboration with Delft Imaging Systems (Netherlands), Fraunhofer MEVIS Institute (Germany) and CORDAID (Netherlands).

The intention is for the final product to be marketed under licence by Delft Imaging Systems and their partners. The focus will initially be on obstetric care in low-resource settings and the team has produced trial units available for evaluation in Africa during the 2nd quarter of 2015. T

The product undoubtedly has other applications in healthcare and beyond and we will also be working to explore as many of these as possible.