Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Ultrasound—More Than Just a Diagnostic Device

Today's guest post discusses some of the cutting edge work being done using ultrasound. 

Imagine a world where a woman can give herself an ultrasound without leaving the comfort of her own home. To anyone who has ever gotten an ultrasound, this sounds like science fiction. After all, it currently takes anywhere between 2-4 years of sonography school become a fully qualified ultrasound technician. The level of training and technical expertise required to use an ultrasound machine make it difficult to imagine a world where getting a sonogram is as easy as taking your own temperature.
According to Paul Carson, a professor of radiological sciences at the University of Michigan, sonography machines will someday be among the many medical appliances that have made their way from our hospitals into our homes. If the current rate of technological development continues, we could have hospital quality, at-home sonogram technology within the next twenty years.
At-home sonogram technology won’t render ultrasound technicians obsolete any more than at-home thermometers rendered nurses obsolete. That said, the rapid rate at which sonogram technology is advancing could redefine the role that ultrasound technicians are expected to play.  
There are many medical professionals, for example, who believe that ultrasound technology could one day become the foundation for entirely new types of surgery. A team of scientists at the University of Michigan, for example, has recently pioneered a technique they’ve labeled “histotripsy”. 
For those who haven’t heard of it, histortripsy involves using high-intensity ultrasounds to create and break apart microbubbles, which fragments cell-tissues with a high degree of accuracy. Doctors could theoretically use histortripsy to target and destroy damaged cells while leaving healthy cells intact.
Other doctors are experimenting with ultrasound technology to develop more effective methods of drug delivery. One of the experiments that Professor Carson’s team is conducting involves injecting inert liquid droplets into the body, then vaporizing those droplets with targeted ultrasound blasts. 
There are two benefits to this new process. First, an active drug contained within an inert liquid droplet is exposed, but only in the part of the body targeted by the ultrasound. Second, doctors can deliver much higher doses of drugs without having to worry about side-effects that would otherwise be present.
If these experiments are successful, it could expand the medicinal role that ultrasound technicians are expected to play. People would begin to rely on ultrasound technicians for both diagnosis and treatment. The implications of these technological trends are all too obvious—if you’re considering become a ultrasound technician, there’s no better time than now.

Arthur Posey is a retired guidance counselor who now spends his days as a freelance blogger. Given his wealth of experience in the field, Arthur frequently writes about the importance of pairing students with the right trade school. When he's not doing that, Arthur is likely to be found rafting on his favorite rivers or working on his motorcycle.

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