Military sets sights on remote 3D ultrasound

February 25, 2002

Providing quality ultrasound imaging at remote military field hospitals is a difficult task. While portable ultrasound instrumentation is available, a successful diagnosis depends on the skill of the clinician to mentally transform dynamic 2D images into

Providing quality ultrasound imaging at remote military field hospitals is a difficult task. While portable ultrasound instrumentation is available, a successful diagnosis depends on the skill of the clinician to mentally transform dynamic 2D images into the complex 3D anatomy.

Without 3D ultrasound or the training that is normally given an ultrasound radiology technologist, a medic could not perform these procedures with any degree of accuracy.

The military is attempting to address this problem by developing a real-time 3D ultrasound-teleradiology system that acquires all views of an anatomic structure instantly.

"The goal of this project is to develop a real-time 3D ultrasound imaging system for use on the battlefield for combat casualty care," said Ron Marchessault, project officer at the U.S. Army's Telemedicine and Advanced Technology and Research Center (TATRC) at Fort Detrick, MD.

The system would permit the acquisition of images by lesser skilled healthcare providers, thereby removing the need for an ultrasound technologist or physician to be present, Marchessault said.

The high-speed TATRC ultrasound system will collect 3D data sets about 40 times faster than current scanners. High-speed 3D acquisition (20 volumes/sec) provides the ability to image dynamic structures and avoids the need for patient immobilization and gating, he said.

The TATRC effort is proceeding on two fronts:

?Developing a portable scanner. Though the current prototype can collect 3D data 40 to 80 times faster than current 3D imaging technologies, it is about the size of a desktop computer.
?Developing a set of software tools for rapid image manipulation and analysis at disparate and remote sites.


Because real-time 3D imaging provides image acquisition without the necessity to immobilize the patient, medics would place a probe on the patient and position sample volume by viewing real-time 2D images of the area of interest, according to Marchessault. After correct positioning had been determined, a 3D data set would be acquired in real-time (0.05/sec for each 3D data set).

Once the data acquisition has been completed, the images would be transmitted via a communications link to a higher echelon of care for postprocessing and analysis. There a clinician could then 'rescan' the patient by viewing multiple 2D planes through the data sets or examine the patient data via computer reconstruction of the 3D anatomy.

"Clearly, real-time 3D ultrasound imaging will act as a force multiplier on the battlefield," he said.