Innovative software has been developed that greatly enhances the detail quality and field of view of conventional ultrasound images. It could improve the diagnosis of heart disease and deliver big savings for the NHS.
The software, called 'IDF Echo', is being unveiled at Healthcare Innovation Expo 2013, taking place at London's ExCel Centre on 13th-14th March 2013 (IDF stands for Intelligent Data Fusion). It will be located on the National Innovation Centre (NIC) stand.
While widely and routinely used, standard ultrasound scans can be prone to image quality problems and have a limited field of view, meaning that a single view of the entire organ is impossible to obtain and that a definitive diagnosis cannot be made.
IDF Echo tackles this problem by generating a composite image from a number of scans. This image delivers better-quality information than the individual component scans. The key benefit is that this can make diagnosis possible without the need for referral to MRI or CT scans, which are many times more expensive than ultrasound. Standard practice in cardiac care is currently to perform an initial ultrasound scan and then an MRI or CT scan if it isn't conclusive.
IDF Echo builds on work led by Professor Alison Noble and her team at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Oxford and originally funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). It has been launched by Intelligent Ultrasound, a spin-out company set up by the University of Oxford.
IDF Echo is now available for equipment manufacturers to incorporate into their ultrasound machines. Evaluations have already been undertaken with the involvement of clinical groups in Oxford and Intelligent Ultrasound is now looking to extend evaluations to other NHS hospitals.
As well as leading the research, Professor Noble is Intelligent Ultrasound's Chief Technology Officer. She says: "Although ultrasound is a very well-established, cost-effective medical scanning technology, there's a limit to the quality of image it can generate. Pinpointing some cardiac conditions requires a follow-up scan using a more expensive technology. By improving the initial diagnostic power of ultrasound, IDF Echo improves the likelihood of earlier diagnosis and quicker treatment for the patient, and has the potential to help NHS budgets by extracting maximum value from low-cost scanning equipment."
Andy Hill, Intelligent Ultrasound's CEO, says: "We've worked very closely with clinical groups to ensure that the images generated by IDF Echo provide the sort of information that will significantly aid clinical decision-making. Moreover, because the software uses standard 3D/4D ultrasound scanners and doesn't require costly hardware upgrades, it should be easier for its use to gain acceptance within the NHS. We would welcome interest from any groups interested in being part of further evaluation studies."
The company is currently developing similar products designed to enhance the use of ultrasound in other areas of healthcare, such as obstetrics.
Intelligent Ultrasound has also received a £200,000 Development Award from the NHS (NIC) to underpin its initial funding. The NHS established the NIC to identify and support the development of new and innovative health technologies and secure their early uptake.
As well as two EPSRC grants, the initial work on the software benefited from the involvement of researchers studying at the RCUK-funded Centre for Doctoral Training in Healthcare Innovation, based at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering, University of Oxford.
Notes for Editors
Professor Noble and members of her team will be demonstrating IDF Echo at the Healthcare Innovation Expo 2013, at London's ExCel Centre on 13th and 14th March 2013. (Professor Noble will be available from 09.30 until 16.30 on 13th and 14th March).
For more information on the Healthcare Innovation Expo 2013: http://www.
The initial academic research was undertaken by two EPSRC-funded projects: 'Quantitative 4D Echocardiography using Fusion Techniques and Spatio-temporal Analysis' and 'Real-time 3D Echocardiography Registration and Deformation Estimation'.
Ultrasound scans use sound waves to create images of organs inside the body, while MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans use magnetic and radio waves and CT (computerised tomography) scans use X-rays.
The RCUK-funded Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Healthcare Innovation based at the Oxford Institute of Biomedical Engineering is training the next generation of biomedical engineering doctoral research students at the interfaces of academic biomedical engineering with clinical medicine and the healthcare industry, including providing opportunities for doctoral students to study the introduction of new technologies into clinical practice.
Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) are one of the main ways by which EPSRC provides support for doctoral training. They bring together diverse areas of expertise to train engineers and scientists with the skills, knowledge and confidence to tackle today's evolving issues, and future challenges. They also provide a supportive and exciting environment for students, create new working cultures, build relationships between teams in universities and forge lasting links with industry. http://www.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK. http://www.
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford has more world-leading academics (rated 4* in the 2008 national Research Assessment Exercise) than any other UK university. Oxford also has the highest number of world-leading or internationally excellent (4* or 3*) academics in the UK. Oxford consistently has the highest research income from external sponsors of any UK university. http://www.
Research Councils UK (RCUK) is the strategic partnership of the UK's seven Research Councils who annually invest around £3 billion in research. We support excellent research, as judged by peer review, that has an impact on the growth, prosperity and wellbeing of the UK. To maintain the UK's global research position we offer a diverse range of funding opportunities, foster international collaborations and provide access to the best facilities and infrastructure around the world. We also support the training and career development of researchers and work with them to inspire young people and engage the wider public with research. To maximise the impact of research on economic growth and societal wellbeing we work in partnership with other research funders including the Technology Strategy Board, the UK Higher Education funding bodies, business, government, and charitable organisations. http://www.
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IDF Echo.jpg: IDF Echo generates a composite image from a number of scans.