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New technology allows for clearest ever ultrasound scan images

Friday 10th February 2017
The UK-based iFIND research team has developed new technology with the power to capture the clearest ever ultrasound scan images. Image: AlexRaths via iStock
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A major step towards making radiography images much more clearer has been made, as UK scientists have developed the world's most detailed pregnancy scan technology.

While the radiation involved in X-rays makes these unsafe for foetuses, the images produced by ultrasound scans during pregnancy are often of a similar quality to X-rays, which suggests that the new technology also has the potential to help radiographers in their work in the future.

Researchers attached to the London-based iFIND project have carried out the clearest scan of an unborn baby yet by using a sophisticated combination of algorithms and magnetic fields to produce an extremely clear magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, in which foetuses can be seen stretching, moving around and even swallowing.

What's more, the IFIND technology is able to penetrate bone, blood and fat to offer an incredibly detailed image of what's going on inside the body of a foetus. In contrast, current ultrasound technology can only show sonographers a basic outline of an unborn baby and its organs.

As a result, iFIND could help in the diagnosis of problems with foetal development, allowing parents to begin accessing the information they need to ensure the best quality of life for their unborn child much quicker than in the past.

With advances in technology and engineering allowing such sophisticated images to be captured, these algorithms have the potential to transform radiography and radiology services across a number of disciplines.

Explaining the extent of the research team's feat, Dr David Lloyd, iFIND team member and a clinical research fellow at King's College London, commented: "Taking pictures of a 20-week foetus while they're still in the womb really isn't that easy.

"For one thing, they're very small. The foetal heart, for example, with all of its tiny chambers and valves, is only about 15 mm long: less than the size of a penny."

As the technology is able to capture clear images of such small organs, it has the potential to be used to help radiographers and radiologists identify small cancerous tumours or other health problems that are miniscule in size but possibly life-threatening in the future.

Written by Megan Smith

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