ATL broadband ultrasound technology moves the imaging modality up a notch

April 24, 1991

ATL took a significant technological step forward last week withthe introduction of a 128-channel, broad-bandwidth capabilityfor its Ultramark 9 high-end ultrasound scanner. The UM9 HDI (high-definitionimaging) upgrade was three years in development and

ATL took a significant technological step forward last week withthe introduction of a 128-channel, broad-bandwidth capabilityfor its Ultramark 9 high-end ultrasound scanner. The UM9 HDI (high-definitionimaging) upgrade was three years in development and beta-testedat 12 clinical sites, said Allen W. Guisinger, ATL executive vicepresident.

An HDI upgrade to the UM9 involves hardware and software changes,including a new beamformer, digital color-Doppler processor andall new scanheads. The upgrade will cost $40,000 to $55,000, dependingon system configurations. Production units are coming off theline and ATL is taking orders for normal delivery, Guisinger said.

The biggest technological jump in HDI is the broadband capabilityfor both the digital beamformer and scanheads. This technologyallows for scanning at multiple frequencies, but not by switchingback and forth between frequencies as in other multifrequencysystems.

HDI operates over the entire bandwidth range continuously,which improves penetration and spatial resolution at all depths.One new transducer, the L10-5 high-resolution linear array, operatesover a range from 5 to 10 MHz, which benefits definition in small-partsand near-field scanning.

Since the bandwidth of a returning echo depends on the typeof tissue it bounces off, the broadband beamformer's ability tointerrogate the entire bandwith in the acquisition process heightenstissue definition, Guisinger said.

HDI converts the analog ultrasound signal to digital data inthe transducer during the acquisition process, as did the previous48-channel UM9. It took surface-mount manufacturing technologyand special application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs),however, to pack 128 channels into the front-end beamformer economically,he said.

ASICs are expensive to design but not to manufacture. The ASICsused in HDI substitute for the analog delay lines in the receiverof the beamformer used in all other ultrasound scanners, Guisingersaid.

"We implemented surface-mount technology last year, whichvastly reduces the overall size of our circuitry. But the moreimportant feature is the development of this beamformer ASIC.There is no other one like it," he said.