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Duke engineers developing ultrasound devices combining 3-D imaging with therapeutic heating

DURHAM, N.C.-- Duke University engineers are developing technology that may enable physicians to someday use high frequency ultrasound waves both to visualize the heart's interior in three dimensions and then selectively destroy heart tissue with heat to correct arrhythmias.

"No one else has developed a way for ultrasound to combine therapy and imaging in a catheter, let alone 3-D imaging," said Stephen Smith, the biomedical engineering professor who heads the project at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering.

Smith's group described work that developed initial laboratory prototypes in two research papers published in October 2005 in the journal "IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectronics and Frequency Control" and the journal "Ultrasonic Imaging."

In an interview, he said his group's technique may improve on doctors' most widely used method for destroying -- or "ablating" -- aberrant tissue that makes hearts beat irregularly. That current technique employs radio waves emitted from the end of an electrode probe that touches and excessively heats tissue selected for destruction.

After threading that internal probe into the heart through arteries, physicians must now rely on fluoroscopic imaging -- X-ray movies -- to help point the device. "However, a fluoroscope cannot image soft tissue at all," Smith said. "So the heart is just a fuzzy background." Under those circumstances, fluoroscopy can provide physicians "only a very gross guidance," he added.

Duke biomedical engineers previously pioneered techniques rendering the kind of soft tissue internal images that enable fetuses to be seen in the womb. They have also pioneered the use of ultrasound to create 3-D images of the heart and other organs.

During the past five years other researchers have followed up by developing tiny internal ultrasound imaging probes than can provide physicians better visual guidance than X-rays for internal surgery, Smith said. But those p
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Contact: Monte Basgall
monte.basgall@duke.edu
919-681-8057
Duke University
4-Nov-2005


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