Ultrasound Imaging Needle to Transform Cardiac Surgery

Ultrasound Imaging Needle to Transform Cardiac Surgery

Researchers from University College London (UCL) and Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) on December 1, 2017, published details of a cardiology needle, which is capable of imaging the cardiac tissues.

Cardiac tissues can be imaged in real-time during keyhole procedures using a new optical ultrasound needle. The technology has been successfully used for minimally invasive heart surgery in pigs giving an unprecedented and high-resolution view of soft tissues up to 2.5 cm in front of the instrument inside the body. The imaging needle relies on an embedded miniature optical fiber that transmits brief pulses of light, which in turn generate ultrasonic pulses. These ultrasonic pulses propagate away from the needle, reflecting off soft tissues before being detected by a second optical fiber in the needle housing.

The pulsed light from the fiber is absorbed by the carbon nanotubes, which produces an ultrasound wave due to the photoacoustic effect. The high speed of the ultrasound emission and detection process results in unprecedented temporal and spatial resolution of the images. The current system can provide live imaging with a resolution of 64 microns, which is about the width of nine red blood cells. The movement of the heart walls and valves can also be tracked in real time.

“The optical ultrasound needle is perfect for procedures where there is a small tissue target that is hard to see during keyhole surgery using current methods and missing it could have disastrous consequences,” said Dr Malcolm Finlay, study co-lead and consultant cardiologist at QMUL and Barts Heart Centre.

Imaging system has potential applications in a variety of minimally invasive procedures, which includes in-womb surgery. The team of researchers behind the technology are planning towards translating the system for clinical use in patients.

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