This miniature-sized ultrasound patch can image internal organs
Hailed as a revolution in medical imaging, researchers have created a wearable ultrasound patch that provides a flexible way to see deep inside the body.
Ultrasound is an important medical tool that helps doctors examine organs for damage, diagnose cancer or even track bacteria. It works by mapping tissues and fluids by recording how sound waves bounce off them.
However, many ultrasound machines aren’t portable, and the wearable ones either struggle to spot details or can be used for only short periods.
The new patch, which is the size of a postage stamp, can work for up to 48 hours on the trot even while the user is doing something active, like exercise, researchers’ report in the July 29 edition of the journal Science.
“This is just the beginning,” Xuanhe Zhao, a mechanical engineer at MIT who led the research team, was quoted as saying.
He said that his team plans to make the patch wireless and able to interface with a user’s phone, which could then show the ultrasound signals as 3-D images.
“We are working hard on the wireless version because there are already wireless point-of-care handheld ultrasounds. We are confident that we will be able to achieve the wireless version in a few years,” he told The Guardian.
They are also confident of their device's efficacy over the prevailing portable ones. In laboratory tests, they used the patches to see people’s hearts change shape during exercise, their stomachs expand and shrink as they drank and passed drinks, and their muscles pick up microdamage when weightlifting.
The researchers say that even without a wireless version, these miniature patches could make an immediate difference in hospitals by monitoring patients’ organs while they lie in bed.