News Column

Patent Issued for Pressure Control in Medical Diagnostic Ultrasound Imaging

July 2, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Journal of Engineering -- According to news reporting originating from Alexandria, Virginia, by VerticalNews journalists, a patent by the inventor Stoll, Jeffrey (San Mateo, CA), filed on September 30, 2010, was published online on June 17, 2014.

The assignee for this patent, patent number 8753278, is Siemens Medical Solutions USA, Inc. (Malvern, PA).

Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The present embodiments relate to medical diagnostic ultrasound imaging. In particular, pressure control of the transducer against the patient is provided.

"In ultrasound imaging, the user places a transducer against the patient. For good acoustic coupling, the user presses the transducer towards the patient. If there is too little compression, the acoustic coupling may be insufficient. Too much pressure may cause patient or sonographer discomfort and may adversely distort tissue. The amount of contact force to apply is a subject of user training, requiring numerous scans to achieve proficiency.

"Image artifacts may result from incorrect pressure. For example, a patient's breast is to be scanned in three dimensions with ultrasound using a scanning pod. Over-compression of the breast by the scanning pod or transducer may lead to two related compression artifacts. The first artifact is a reduction in anatomic resolution caused by compression of small tissue structures. The physical separation and/or impedance contrast between adjacent structures cannot be resolved in the ultrasound image if the pressure causes the tissue boundaries to be very close together. This loss of information results in a loss of diagnostic yield and a loss of confidence for detecting small pre-cancerous or neo-cancerous lesion detection.

"The second artifact is a reduction in anatomic resolution due to blurring of tissue over small regions. The transducer may be moved to scan different planes for three-dimensional imaging. As the transducer moves laterally, friction between the transducer face and the tissue causes lateral displacement of the tissue and an increase in static shear force. When this shear force reaches a certain threshold--defined by properties including the contact normal force, tissue stiffness, tissue shape and contact lubrication--the contact begins to slip, leading to a relaxation of the tissue counter to the transducer movement. Following some relaxation of the tissue, the contact sticks again and the process repeats. This is referred to as 'stick-slip.' The result within an image of a volume is a blurring of image detail corresponding to locations scanned during tissue relaxation."

In addition to obtaining background information on this patent, VerticalNews editors also obtained the inventor's summary information for this patent: "By way of introduction, the preferred embodiments described below include methods, instructions and systems for controlling transducer contact pressure in medical diagnostic ultrasound imaging. Rather than measuring pressure directly using a pressure sensor on the transducer, the compression of body tissues within the patient due to transducer pressure may be measured using ultrasound scanning. For example in breast imaging, the desired compression for imaging a portion of the breast is compared to compression measured from ultrasound data. Once the desired compression is achieved, the pressure applied by the transducer is maintained while the diagnosis scan occurs. For example, a robotic arm locks or otherwise maintains the pressure during scanning.

"In a first aspect, a method is provided for controlling transducer contact pressure in medical diagnostic ultrasound imaging. An ultrasound transducer is placed against a patient's breast. An amount of pressure applied by the ultrasound transducer against the breast is increased or decreased. The ultrasound transducer is used to ultrasonically scan a region of the breast while increasing or decreasing the transducer contact pressure. Body tissue compression caused by the transducer contact pressure is measured with ultrasound data received by the transducer due to the scanning. The transducer contact pressure is controlled as a function of the measured body tissue compression such that the contact pressure stabilizes at a desired level.

"In a second aspect, a non-transitory computer readable storage medium has stored therein data representing instructions executable by a programmed processor for controlling transducer contact pressure in medical diagnostic ultrasound imaging. The storage medium includes instructions for measuring body tissue compression caused by an ultrasound transducer with ultrasound data from an ultrasound scan, regulating an amount of the pressure applied by the transducer as a function of body tissue compression, and scanning with the ultrasound transducer.

"In a third aspect, a system is provided for controlling pressure in medical diagnostic ultrasound imaging. A support arm operable to hold a transducer. An ultrasound imaging apparatus connects with the transducer. The ultrasound imaging apparatus is configured to acquire, with the transducer, ultrasound data representing a patient. A processor is configured to determine an amount of contact force applied by the transducer against a patient. The processor determines the amount from the ultrasound data. The processor is configured to determine when the amount is sufficient.

"The present invention is defined by the following claims, and nothing in this section should be taken as a limitation on those claims. Further aspects and advantages of the invention are discussed below in conjunction with the preferred embodiments and may be later claimed independently or in combination."

For more information, see this patent: Stoll, Jeffrey. Pressure Control in Medical Diagnostic Ultrasound Imaging. U.S. Patent Number 8753278, filed September 30, 2010, and published online on June 17, 2014. Patent URL: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=8753278.PN.&OS=PN/8753278RS=PN/8753278

Keywords for this news article include: Siemens Medical Solutions USA Inc.

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Source: Journal of Engineering


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