If the probes prove beneficial in human testing, the advance might lead to more precise and safer endoscopic surgeries, said the Duke engineers. The researchers reported their advance in the latest issue of the journal Ultrasonic Imaging, which was issued in late March 2006, but dated July 2005. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.
"Surgeons now use optical endoscopes or two-dimensional ultrasound when conducting minimally invasive surgery," said lead engineer Stephen Smith, a professor of biomedical engineering at the Pratt School. Optical endoscopes are thin tubes with a tiny video camera that surgeons can insert directly into the abdomen or chest through small incisions.
"With our scanner, doctors could see the target lesion or a portion of an organ in a real-time three-dimensional scan," Smith said. "They would have the option of viewing the tissue in three perpendicular cross-sectional slices simultaneously or in the same way a camera would see it - except that a camera can't see through blood and tissue."
The technology has yet to be tested in human patients, but its success in dogs makes it ready for clinical trials, according to the researchers.
Endoscopic surgical methods have the advantage of reduced postoperative pain and a faster recovery. However, the two-dimensional ultrasound imaging now available offers surgeons only a limited view, which can impede their depth perception and make such procedures difficult to master.