The new probe has considerable potential not only for evaluating the condition of the heart, but also for use in guiding therapeutic treatment devices, the researchers said. The new Duke probe can also be used to image the esophagus, rectum, colon and prostate.
A peer-reviewed report on the work was published this month in volume 26 issue number 4 of the journal Ultrasonic Imaging. (Note: Because the journal's publication is backlogged, the issue date is 2004.)
The research is funded by the Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health and by the National Science Foundation.
One form of ultrasound cardiac imaging, called transesophageal echocardiography (TEE), is conducted on hundreds of people each day in the United States. The technique entails inserting a probe down the patient's throat and behind the heart to capture ultrasound heart images. The images can reveal the condition of the heart chambers, valves, major blood vessels and heart tissue. TEE is a safe and fast diagnostic technique.
However, current TEE systems can quickly generate only two-dimensional cross-sectional images. This limitation makes it impractical for use in guiding therapeutic treatment devices such as ablation probes that burn off damaged cells that cause an irregular heart beat. Clinicians must repeatedly and painstakingly reposition the 2-D probe during treatments so, instead, they use fluoroscopy (X-ray movies) to guide the placement of the treatment devices. However, the use of X-ray imaging results in radiation exposure for patients and requires bulky lead-shielding garments for clinicians. In addition, such procedur