Breast imaging system overcomes drawbacks of conventional ultrasound

January 23, 2007

Although ultrasound can find occult cancers in women with dense breasts, it is time-consuming, operator dependent, and limited in penetration and interpretation. Conventional scanners typically provide only 2D images. U-Systems has spent the last three years building an ultrasound machine that overcomes these problems.

Although ultrasound can find occult cancers in women with dense breasts, it is time-consuming, operator dependent, and limited in penetration and interpretation. Conventional scanners typically provide only 2D images. U-Systems has spent the last three years building an ultrasound machine that overcomes these problems.

SomoVu generates the right energy at the right frequency using a large field-of-view transducer to acquire data that can be reconstructed into a volumetric image showing tissue all the way to the chest wall, according to the company. Operator dependence is minimized with algorithms that automate the acquisition process.

"We've taken away the buttons and knobs and dials and gauges and developed a one-button scan that eliminates the need to set frequency and gain and contrast resolution," said Joe Pepper, Ph.D., president and CEO of U-Systems.

U-Systems is marketing SomoVu as an adjunct to screening mammography for imaging women with dense breast tissue, which obscures cancers at a rate of about three per 1000 negative mammograms, according to Pepper. After selling its first SomoVu in 2005, San Jose-based U-Systems is ramping up its sales operation. The 10-year-old company is strengthening its five-person sales force by expanding geographically in the U.S. It is also working to develop distributor relationships in Europe and Asia.

U-Systems' SomoVu creates more standardized and reproducible imaging studies by addressing traditional ultrasound bugaboo operator dependence, Pepper said.

In the last year, U-Systems has been refining SomoVu by improving viewing techniques, particularly the coronal view, in which data are reconstructed in slices from the nipple to the chest wall.

"We're finding at our commercial and clinical sites that this view of the breast seems to lend itself best to seeing nipple and ductal structure, as well as invasive cancers that are difficult to see on other views with other modalities," he said.

U-Systems also is working to integrate its viewing station with mammography viewing stations from major manufacturers.

"We are a small company, but we already recognize that we have to be spending money on integration and PACS," Pepper said.