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    Agile Ultrasound Architecture: Previewing the Next Revolution in Ultrasound Imaging.
    Ultrasound Post.
    Technical development and medical research - news and facts

    The diagnostic use of ultrasound has greatly expanded over the past couple of decades. As an imaging modality ultrasound offers many advantages - it is non-invasive, non-ionizing, real-time, portable, and low-cost.

    However, although image quality and back-end post-processing capabilities have improved significantly, ultrasound image quality is more variable and depends both on the type of patient and expertise of the operator. GE's new Agile Acoustic Architecture is designed to reduce these dependencies and improve the acceptance of ultrasound. Image quality depends on the complex interaction of the human body with the ultrasound signal. Each human tissue type affects the ultrasound beam differently. As ultrasound passes through multiple body tissues, variations in the speed and attenuation along the ultrasound beam cause an aberration or depth-dependent distortion in the beam.

    To counteract these effects, ultrasound systems must continuously adjust a multitude of internal system parameters in the beam former, to optimize image quality for each point in the image (voxels). The more parameters that can be adjusted, the better the image quality - but also the computational complexity. Because ultrasound must provide real-time images, the time permitted for these computational corrections is short. As a result, conventional ultrasound systems limit computational complexity and make many simplifying assumptions about the body in order to achieve real-time imaging. This results in compromised image quality and requires the user to make many system adjustments to compensate.

    GE's new Agile Acoustic Architecture is based on the concept of agility. It starts with the development of complex acoustic models based on clinical data which take into account more realistic and dynamic physics profiles for each tissue type. Unlike the presets used in conventional ultrasound which provide a starting point for the keyboard controls, with Agile Acoustic Architecture the user simply selects the appropriate clinical model for the anatomy being scanned and the agile model automatically adjusts the internal system parameters.

    Add to this new flexible architecture a series of powerful distributed processors on each beam forming channel and you achieve the order of magnitude increase in processing power which is required by these acoustic models. The result is dramatically improved image quality, improved near-field and better uniformity with reduced need for user adjustments.

    GE's significant investments in miniaturization have enabled us to put the processing power of high-end systems into hand-held packages. This expertise has also allowed us to pack an order of magnitude greater processing power into the space of a full sized ultrasound system, the LOQIQ E9. Ultra-high speed links transferring 3 GB of data per second - 30 x the rate of conventional ultrasound systems - have also been developed to effectively transmit the data and imaging parameters.

    Despite these advances, however, Agile ultrasound is still in its infancy. The sophisticated sound/ body models do not yet come close to reaching their potential. They open up a new branch of ultrasound science that will drive other innovations in the coming years and with the basic architecture in place, the opportunities to further refine sound tissue models hold great promise.

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