A new ultrasound system that uses optical, instead of electronic components, could improve performance while giving doctors significantly more flexibility in how they use ultrasound to diagnose and treat medical problems.
Researchers demonstrated for the first time the use of an all-optical ultrasound imager for video-rate, real-time 2D imaging of biological tissue. The achievement is an important step toward making all-optical ultrasound practical for routine clinical use. Because they require no electronic components in the imaging probe, all-optical ultrasound systems could be safely used at the same time as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners. This would give doctors a more comprehensive picture of the tissues around an area of interest, such as a tumor or blood vessel.
Lightbeam scanning mirrors built into the device increase image quality and make it possible to acquire images in different modes. In a clinical setting, this would allow doctors to rapidly toggle between modes on a single instrument to suit the task at hand. Acquiring different types of images using conventional ultrasound systems typically requires separate specialized probes. To adapt the technology for clinical use, the researchers are working to develop a long, flexible imaging probe for free-hand operation, as well as miniaturized versions for endoscopic applications.