MIT researchers have designed a wearable ultrasound monitor, in the form of a patch, that can image organs within the body without the need for an ultrasound operator or application of gel.
The researchers demonstrated that their patch can precisely scan the bladder and measure its fullness in a recent study. According to the researchers, this could make it easier for people with kidney or bladder problems to monitor whether these organs are operating normally.
By relocating the ultrasonic array and adjusting the signal's frequency, this method might also be used to monitor other organs inside the body. These gadgets have the potential to facilitate the early diagnosis of malignancies, such as ovarian cancer, that originate deep within the body.
“This technology is versatile and can be used not only on the bladder but any deep tissue of the body,” said Canan Dagdeviren, the study’s corresponding author. “It’s a novel platform that can do identification and characterization of many of the diseases that we carry in our body.”
The researchers focused on a bladder ultrasound because they were partly inspired by Dagdeviren’s younger brother, who’d been diagnosed with kidney cancer a few years ago. Since having a kidney removed, he’d had difficulty fully emptying his bladder, reports NewAtlas.
“Millions of people are suffering from bladder dysfunction and related diseases, and not surprisingly, bladder volume monitoring is an effective way to assess your kidney health and wellness,” Dagdeviren said.
A flexible silicone rubber patch embedded with five ultrasound arrays made of a novel piezoelectric material that the researchers created specifically for the device is called the conformable ultrasound bladder patch, or cUSB-Patch. The new material, called Sm/La-PMN-PT, is a samarium/lanthanum-doped blend of lead titanate and lead magnesium niobate ceramics.
Because of the arrays' X-shaped arrangement, there is a wide field of view. In this instance, the entire bladder—which measures roughly 4.7 by 3.1 in. (12 by 8 cm) when full—could be imaged by the gadget. The patch is simple to attach and remove because it is inherently adhesive and gently sticks to the skin. Leggings or underpants might keep it in place more firmly.
Twenty individuals with a range of BMIs, ages 18 to 64, were used by the researchers to test the cUSB-Patch's capacity to assess bladder volume. Before being photographed with their bladders fully, partially, and empty, the patients' bladders were first filled. No matter the patient's BMI, the cUSB-Patch produced images that were equivalent to those obtained with a traditional ultrasound probe.
The device's wide field of view eliminated the requirement for gel and the need for pressure, which would have been necessary with a traditional ultrasonic transducer. The researchers linked the conventional ultrasound machine to their ultrasound arrays in order to view the images captured with the cUSB-Patch. They are developing a small gadget that might be used to see the photographs; it is roughly the size of a smartphone.
The goal of the research is to create ultrasonography equipment that can image other organs such as the liver, pancreas, or ovaries. Because each organ is located at a different depth, the ultrasound signal's frequency would need to be changed, requiring the use of new piezoelectric materials.
“For whatever organ that we need to visualize, we go back to the first step, select the right materials, come up with the right device design, and then fabricate everything accordingly before testing the device and performing clinical trials,” said Dagdeviren.
The study was published in the journal Nature Electronics.