New 3D cardiac imaging probe from the land of Blue Devils

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A new three-dimensional ultrasound cardiac imaging probe has been developed by biomedical engineers at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering. Speed is one of the primary benefits of the new probe, which upon being inserted via the esophagus, can create an image of the whole heart in the time it takes for a single heart cross section image to be created by standard ultrasound technology, according to a Duke University release.

Some potential key uses for the new probe include evaluating of the condition of the heart, guiding therapeutic treatment devices, and imaging the esophagus, rectum, colon and prostate, researchers said according to the release. This new technology takes 2D transesophageal echocardiography (TEE), which is not useful in therapeutic treatment, one step further, adding a third dimension.

"Three-D ultrasound is already an established technology in many hospitals," said Stephen Smith, biomedical engineering professor at Duke. "With our new real-time, 3D transesophageal probe, we have all the benefits of the 2D TEE probe and none of the drawbacks. We can generate sharp, high-contrast images of the whole heart and position heart catheters and ablation devices at the same time. We have already done so in laboratory tests on animals."

Other technical aspects of the probe include increased sensitivity and sharper images, which are large enough to encompass the whole volume of the heart, translating into fewer images needing to be taken, according to the release.

The research is made possible through funded by the Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health and by the National Science Foundation.