A new and improved medical imaging technique has recently been developed by scientists at Washington University and University of Southern California, which is expected to significantly improve examination of internal organs.
Combining ultrasound and photoacoustic – two different imaging methods extensively used today – internal organs can now be viewed in high contrast, high resolution images, thereby making it easier for physicians to identify lesions, tumors, or any abnormalities.
Ultrasound endoscopy, which requires the use of an ultrasound camera mounted on a flexible scope, is often the diagnostic technique of choice by many medical experts because of the high resolution images it generates. However, it has one disadvantage: low contrast.
This prompted researchers to have it paired with another method that greatly enhances the images produced. In an endoscopy, an ultrasound camera flashes a beam of light on the target organ area. As the tissue absorbs the energy from the light, the organ tissue undergoes thermal expansion—all of which are captured on an imaging device called photoacoustic. Meanwhile, the sound pressure wave created by the expansion is received by the ultrasound.
To test the efficacy of the newly developed technique, it was tested on the gastrointestinal tract and the results were laudable; the images produced presented a more precise view of blood vessels and even the thickness of the surrounding tissue. Such detailed imaging is believed to pave way for a more prompt detection of cancers.
According to Professor Lihong Wang of Washington University, a much deeper examination of internal organs is made possible through photoacoustic endoscopy, as compared with the limited depth allowed by optical endoscopy.