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Getting to the heart of cardiac ultrasound technology

John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | April 01, 2019
Cardiology Ultrasound
From the April 2019 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine


“If you have software that makes quantification of echocardiac uniform, it doesn’t matter whether someone in South Dakota reads it or someone in The Netherlands does,” said Mount Sinai’s Goldman. “As long as the quantification is accurate, that improves standardization and the overall reputation of echo.”

The shift toward quantitative measurements and analysis is already starting to take root, according to Marti McCulloch, cardiology segment director for Siemens Healthineers Ultrasound, with patients being treated based on the quantitative analysis now in reports.

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“In the past, physicians would just look at an echo ultrasound study and say mild, moderate or severe. That’s very subjective to the individual that’s doing the report, as well as the referring physicians or individual getting the report,” she said. “Now, the image quality is better and the method for doing the measurements is better and more streamlined. It really comes down to guidelines that are promoted by different societies and associations.”

What the future holds
From automated measurements to dual 2D and 3D visualization, cardiac ultrasound continues to give rise to new techniques and capabilities. Among these is the introduction of intracardiac 3D, imaging inside of the heart.

“It’s an ultrasound that sits inside of the heart as it provides guidance during interventional procedures,” said McCulloch. “It’s imaging inside the heart with something that’s maybe the size of a piece of spaghetti.”

She adds that the aim in further developing this technology falls in line with the shift from fee- to value-based care, with clinicians searching for ways to diagnose and treat conditions as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“The whole idea is to do just one test that answers the clinical questions, rather than three or four. If you have a good ultrasound system with great image quality that can answer the clinical question, then you don’t need other downstream testing, which is not cost-effective.”

Another promising frontier is the development of dual modalities, such as merging fluoroscopy with ultrasound in the cath lab.

“This technology includes AI features which help clinicians see the overall spectrum of what fluoroscopy can provide and what ultrasound can provide in one single stream,” said Dr. Gonçalves, adding that “it’s one of the trends that has been pushing ultrasound further because of the new ways of treating structural heart disease without open-heart surgery.”

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