Ultrasound congress goes biennial after Seoul success

August 1, 2006

Attendance breaks records following years of meticulous planning with member societies

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 the WFUMB 11th world congress, held in Seoul in late May, the general assembly agreed to reduce the interval between future meetings from three to two years. After the next event in Sydney in 2009, future congresses are scheduled for Vienna in 2011 and Sao 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, 2659 professional delegates from 68 countries attended, 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, 423 commercial exhibitors also were present.

"I think that the Seoul congress is 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 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was equally impressed. He told the organizers that it was the most outstanding meeting of its type that he had ever attended.

Congress president Prof. Byung Ihn Choi, a radiologist at Seoul National University, said the success of the meeting was due to six years of meticulous planning. Establishing close contacts with member societies around the world was crucial and has fostered 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 of each in the very early stages," he said. "This dynamic cooperation and networking will be a great asset in the future."

Choi identified the focus sessions as the scientific highlight of the meeting. These sessions explored the application of ultrasound in relatively new and still contentious areas.

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

The invaluable role of ultrasound in prenatal diagnosis was not forgotten, however. A paper by Dr. Giancarlo Mari of Wayne State University in Detroit, 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 in terms of advancing medicine in less developed countries.

"The relative low cost and easy maintenance of the equipment, combined with its wide range of diagnostic applications, makes ultrasound 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 make it difficult to detect blood flow in small neoplastic vessels in the liver and other tissues, but intravenous contrast agents such as SHU 508A (Levovist, Schering) enable 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 angiography, agent detection imaging, and coded pulse sequencing," he said.

Choi was optimistic about the prospects for future 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 accurate diagnosis of focal abdominal lesions, in mapping the anatomic extent of lesions, and in monitoring therapeutic effects.