Editors' ChoiceImaging

Ultrasound imaging made easy

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science Translational Medicine  29 Jul 2015:
Vol. 7, Issue 298, pp. 298ec130
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aac9741

Medical ultrasound systems have traditionally been designed for specialized clinical applications and environments in which the need for increased image resolution and multipurpose functionality has driven device development towards the high end of technological capability and cost. Trained physicians or skilled technicians are required to understand the technology and relevant anatomy, operate these systems, and ultimately acquire high-quality image sequences. Recent trends in low-cost ultrasound hardware, along with development of automated algorithms for image analysis, are putting ultrasound imaging on a path from specialized high-end imaging systems to a monitoring modality for a new end-user, namely, the patient.

Towards this end, Crimi and coworkers report an application of ultrasound imaging for the noninvasive estimation of venous pressure. By measuring the pressure applied by the ultrasound probe on the skin surface while imaging veins at the point of vessel collapse, the authors were able to deduce peripheral venous pressure. To achieve the pressure estimation, the authors focused on a suite of signal processing algorithms that allowed for automated vessel identification, vessel tracking, and pressure estimation. Such automation of image acquisition and analysis paves the way for ultrasound imaging to become accessible to the nonexpert ultrasound user. Likewise, continued advances in and miniaturization of ultrasound transducer technology, such as capacitive and piezoelectric micromachined ultrasound transducers (CMUTs and PMUTs, respectively), along with microelectronic integration of the driving circuits into the probes, hold promise for large-volume, low-cost, special-purpose, and small form-factor ultrasound systems to enter the home healthcare market for a variety of applications.

Although obtained in a small sample size, the approach and results reported by Crimi et al. demonstrate that the accuracy and precision of their automated venous pressure estimation system are no worse than the inter-observer variability between trained clinicians. The specific application of pressure estimation lends itself to repeat, possibly even continuous, pressure measurements and therefore renders ultrasound-based pressure monitoring suitable for use by patients themselves. Such end-user applications will provide new perspectives on ultrasound system design that will likely affect even the specialized, high-end clinical market.

A. Crimi et al., Automatic measurement of venous pressure using B-mode ultrasound. IEEE Trans. Biomed. Eng. 10.1109/TBME.2015.2455953 (2015). [Abstract]

Navigate This Article