The quiet superstar

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Lisa Fratt, Editor

The value of experience is not in seeing much, but in seeing wisely, observed Canadian physician William Osler, MD.

To the untrained eye, ultrasound datasets can seem a bit like nuclear imaging studies—fabulously unclear. With the exception of second and third trimester fetal scans, ultrasound lacks the wow factor of CT, MRI and digital x-ray. Yet, despite being oft-outshined by other diagnostic imaging modalities, ultrasound continues to demonstrate its ability to deliver value-enabling datasets.

Take for example the November study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which demonstrated that endosonography outperformed traditional surgical staging in the detection of distant metastases among lung cancer patients, and thus, helped reduce unnecessary thoracotomies. The implications are significant as the protocol could lower costs by minimizing thoracotomies and associated complications while also improving patient care by offering patients a more expeditious, less invasive diagnostic alternative.

The outcome is similar for ultrasound-assisted thrombolysis for pulmonary emboli, according to a presentation at the annual International Symposium on Endovascular Therapy (ISET) in Miami Beach, Fla.

Researchers focused on a catheter device that weds ultrasonic energy and thrombolytic drugs. It packs a powerful punch, dissolving PEs faster than conventional therapy. And the benefits are likely to continue along the healthcare chain. Lengths of stay were considerably shorter among patients undergoing the hybrid therapy vs. conventional treatment, averaging five days of total hospitalization for ultrasound-assisted thrombolysis compared with 10 to 12 days of hospitalization for standard treatment.

These, and scores of other clinical and technical advances, will continue to propel imaging’s quiet superstar. Such data that examine costs and patient outcomes are critical in the coming years as diagnostic imaging is likely to face scrutiny in terms of cost and appropriate utilization.

Here at Health Imaging News, our eyes are on the quiet superstar. We’re looking at and beyond the images and considering outcomes, costs and value.

Lisa Fratt
Editor of Health Imaging & IT