Hot ultrasound topics propel modality, meeting to new heights

June 16, 2006

The World Federation for Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology (WFUMB) plans to build upon its most successful international congress to date by making the meeting a biennial event.

The World Federation for Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology (WFUMB) plans to build upon its most successful international congress to date by making the meeting a biennial event.

At WFUMB's 11th world congress, held in Seoul from May 28 to June 1, the general assembly agreed to reduce the interval between future meetings from three to two years. After the next event takes place in Sydney in 2009, further congresses are scheduled for Vienna in 2011 and São Paulo in 2013.

Attendance broke all records for the meeting, often jokingly referred to as the "Olympics of ultrasound related science" because it covers such a broad range of scientific disciplines. In total, there were 2659 professional delegates from 68 countries, with particularly good support from the host nation (1498 delegates), China (314), Japan (212), and Taiwan (68). In addition to the 567 delegates from farther afield, there were 423 commercial exhibitors at the meeting.

"I think that the Seoul congress is really the finest I have ever attended," said WFUMB council member Dr. Elisabetta Buscarini, a gastroenterologist from Crema, Italy.

Past president Dr. Barry Goldberg, a professor of radiology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, was equally impressed. He told the organizers that it was the most outstanding meeting of its type that he had ever attended.

The success of the meeting was due to more than six years of meticulous planning, according to congress president Prof. Byung Ihn Choi from the radiology department at the Seoul National University. Establishing close contacts with member societies of the federation around the world was a crucial factor that will help the development of ultrasound-based medicine in South Korea.

"To attract as many participants as possible, the organizing committee carefully studied the related societies and gained the cooperation from each in the early stages. This dynamic cooperation and networking with each organization will be a great asset in the future," Choi said.

Choi picked the hot focus sessions as the scientific highlight of WFUMB 2006. They explored the application of ultrasound in relatively new and still contentious areas. Dr. Takamichi Murakami from Osaka University in Japan and Dr. Feng Wu from Chongqing Medical University in China examined the expanding use of high-intensity focused ultrasound in the ablation of solid tumors. This method is rapidly gaining acceptance as an alternative to traditional cancer treatments, but treatment times can be too long and better thermometry techniques are necessary.

Ultrasound is also being used increasingly as an aid to surgical intervention in obstetrics. Researchers from the Fort Sanders Perinatal Center in Knoxville described the potential value of ultrasound in the intrauterine repair of spina bifida. A multinational group from Belgium, Spain, and the U.K. presented the results of a trial involving the ultrasound-guided surgical repair of congenital diaphragmatic hernias in fetuses.

The invaluable role of ultrasound in prenatal diagnosis was not forgotten. A paper by Dr. Giancarlo Mari of Wayne State University in Michigan discussed new applications for Doppler velocimetry in investigations of fetal and maternal circulation, used in attempts to prevent intrauterine growth restriction.

In a keynote lecture, Goldberg reviewed the role of ultrasound in healthcare around the globe. He noted that ultrasound could make a contribution second only to conventional radiography to advancing medicine in less developed countries.

"The relative low cost and easy maintenance of the equipment, combined with the wide range of diagnostic applications, makes it particularly well suited for use in developing countries," he said. "But there continues to be a deficit in the number of training centers."

Choi's main scientific lecture focused on first-generation ultrasound contrast agents in abdominal investigations. Technical deficiencies of traditional B-mode and unenhanced Doppler ultrasound made it difficult to detect blood flow in small neoplastic vessels in the liver and other tissues, but the introduction of intravenous contrast agents such as SHU 508A (Levovist, Schering) has enabled better discrimination between blood and tissue-derived signals.

"Tumor vascularity was successfully demonstrated by using contrast-enhanced harmonic methods, including pulse-inversion harmonic ultrasound, coded harmonic angio, agent detection imaging, and coded pulse sequencing," he said.

Choi was optimistic about the prospects for further progress. Most studies so far have concentrated on first-generation products, which have limited stability. More robust second-generation agents have a wider range of potential applications. They are likely to be useful in the accurate diagnosis of focal abdominal lesions, in mapping the anatomic extent of lesions, and in monitoring therapeutic effects.

For more information from the Diagnostic Imaging archives:

Focused ultrasound fries pancreatic cancer

Prenatal ultrasound averts fetal vasa previa deaths

Contrast ultrasound finds a niche in molecular imaging