Just over one week into the new decade and the medical device industry is already launching into the future. The innovative researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have taken a large step into the future of ultrasound imaging technologies. They have produced the first laser ultrasound images of humans. This new technology can produce ultrasound images up to 6 centimetres deep into the skin from half a meter away. The images produced by this new medical device have been similar to those produced by the usual contact-based ultrasound machine, in both accuracy and optically.

So, how does it work? The laser ultrasound machine consists of two lasers; one that emits a light wave and one which receives a soundwave. The conversion from light to sound waves occurs on the skin. The light wave causes the blood vessels in the skin to expand. The body then cools the blood vessels causing them to shrink. This rapidly repeats as continuous light wave approach. The repetition of this process results in vibrations along the skin. These vibrations make up a soundwave. The conversion from light to soundwave was critical for this cutting-edge medical device as soundwaves travel deeper into the body allowing for a more in-depth image of the desired area.

After the conversion, the soundwave travels into the body and is reflected at varying frequencies as skin, muscle, and bone tissue absorb different amounts of the produced soundwave. The reflected soundwave is then absorbed by the second laser. Finally, the information received by the second laser is translated into an image. This medical device is profound by converting the light wave to a soundwave in order to remain independent from the body.

Although ultrasound is already considered a non-invasive procedure, the ability to conduct one without any contact at all is beneficial to patients who cannot be touched. Such patients could be infants, burn victims, and patients trapped in an accident. The researchers at MIT hope to improve the depth and accuracy of this new medical device. The researchers also hope to decrease the size of the technology with the aspiration of making the laser ultrasound a household medical device for preventative and proactive medical care. With technology like this already being discovered this early in 2020, it is clear that the future is bright, inventive, and upon us now!

To see an explanation of the laser ultrasound directly from MIT, please click here. For another article on this topic, please click here.

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Emily Campbell