Biomedical Research Institute Develops Ultrasound Technology for Kidney Stones

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Artifacts in ultrasound are more of a nuisance and can contribute to misleading diagnostic information. Artifacts can be attributed to a hardware problem such as holding the transducer incorrectly or be related to the imaging technique and software such as B-Mode or Doppler. However, scientists at the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) are developing an ultrasound technology that uses “Twinkling Artifact” to detect and push through kidney stones.

According to researchers Dr. Lawrence Crum and Co-Investigator Dr. Michael Bailey, “We have a diagnostic ultrasound machine that has enhanced capability to image kidney stones in the body,” said Bailey, a principal engineer at APL-UW. “We also have a capability that uses ultrasound waves coming right through the skin to push small stones or pieces of stones toward the exit of the kidney, so they will naturally pass, avoiding surgery.”

Ten percent of the population suffers from painful kidney stones and the current method for removal is water consumption and time for the stone to pass. Often surgery is required, but in space neither option is optimal. Through their research they hope to mitigate the chance that an astronaut will encounter this painful condition. Utilizing B-Mode to identify the location of the anatomy and stone and Doppler technology to create the picture of a “colored stone”, Crum and Bailey expect to use this twinkling image to push the stone through the kidney. They say “Once the stones are located, the ultrasound machine operator can select a stone to target, and then, with a simple push of a button, send a focused ultrasound wave, about half a millimeter in width, to move the stone toward the kidney’s exit. The stone moves about one centimeter per second. In addition to being an option to surgery, the technology can be used to “clean up” after surgery.”

We’ll definitely be interested in seeing how this technology is used here on earth to treat patients with kidney stones. For immediate needs on purchasing ultrasound equipment, ultrasound service contracts or training, visit our site www.umiultrasound.com/ultrasound-service