editor.jpg (9946 bytes)A friend from the ultrasound industry was telling me about his move to a high-tech telecommunications company. “It’s cutting edge stuff that will drastically improve the ways we all communicate,” he said. “But it doesn’t have the same impact on people ultrasound does.”

“I’m still amazed by the things ultrasound lets me see and how it can help people,” a technician at a children’s hospital recently told me. “Even after 16 years as a sonographer.”

And a friend of mine who is pregnant with her first baby called to describe her joy upon first ogling via ultrasound her daughter due early next year. “She’s already the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” she gloated.

Different people, of different ages, from different parts of the country, with different careers and priorities, and they all share a reverence for the technology we’re focusing on this month: ultrasound.

Ultrasound has a lot of advantages — it is non-invasive, doesn’t use radiation, can be used in nearly every area of the body and on every continent on the globe. The number of procedures performed annually continues to increase (up about 5 percent in the U.S. according to the most recent numbers) thanks to technological advancements and expanding applications. Through and through, ultrasound reeks of the cost effectiveness healthcare craves.

In this month’s special section, we’re taking a closer look at three regions of interest within ultrasound — contrast agents, imaging small parts and ultrasound PACS.

Contrast agents along with harmonic imaging are stimulating healthy growth in cardiac ultrasound applications. For identifying endocardial borders, contrast-enhanced echo is second to none, and it is bringing better accuracy to myocardial perfusion assessments. Training programs are spreading real-time perfusion imaging skills across the country, and as agents are developed for abdominal regions, ultrasound may someday challenge X-ray, CT and MRI when a contrast-dependent procedure is needed in the gut.

Small parts ultrasound answers managed care’s call for cost-effective, efficient evaluation of superficial organs and pathologies just below the skin. Higher-frequency probes and improved system processing reduce unwanted image noise, allowing small parts to be more easily identified. Small parts imaging also has the potential to bring real change to breast imaging.

PACS is the great enabler in imaging, and much of the practical experience that validated electronic image management came from ultrasound projects, but the choice between investing in single- or multi-modality PACS remains a question. The answer is, like most things in life, complex and contingent on local needs and preferences. Whatever the configuration, the outcome that matters with ultrasound PACS is getting images to the right place at the right time.

editor_sig.jpg (3987 bytes)
Mary C. Tierney, Editor
[email protected]