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Miniature ultrasound probe for real-time three-dimensional imaging and monitoring of cardiac interventions

Design a miniature 3D TEE probe with dimensions similar to a pediatric 2D TEE probe

Researchers:  Deep Bera, Nico de Jong, Ton van der Steen, Hans Bosch

Need for miniaturized 3D TEE: Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) produces high quality ultrasound images of the heart. Unlike a standard transthoracic echocardiogram, the transducer is mounted on a tube that passes through the patient's mouth, into patient's esophagus. Currently, 3D TEE is used for real time diagnostic imaging and image guidance in adults. There is no real-time 3D imaging device for babies and infants because of the relatively large diameter of the probe. TEE procedures in adults fail in 5-10 % of cases due to the high level of discomfort (or intolerance) caused by the large probe in the throat. Real time 3D imaging for visual feedback in electrophysiology procedures and valve replacements in adults is becoming increasingly important. Rhythm disorder treatments are life-saving but lengthy interventions that last up to 4-6 hours. The patient should be awake in many cases, so the discomfort of a large 3D probe is prohibitive. Therefore, one possible solution could be a miniature 3D TEE probe which is suitable for small children and can be inserted via patient's nose (which is also unpleasant) causing less discomfort to the patient.

Aim of this project: The aim of this project is to design a miniature 3D TEE probe with dimensions  similar to a pediatric 2D TEE probe (head volume approx. 1cm³, tube 5mm). Such a probe should contain built-in electronics to accommodate the large number of elements (approx. 900) with a very limited number of cables (approx. 200) in the tube. The heat dissipation should be very low to prevent tissue heating.

Current developments: Very recently we have successfully built the first of its kind low power (approx. 250mW) prototype 3D TEE transducer with the dimensions as mentioned earlier, in collaboration with our partner research groups in TUDelft and partner company Oldelft. This transducer includes a custom-designed integrated circuit to achieve the functionalities we have in mind. At this moment we are characterizing the properties of the probe and doing 3D imaging experiments with it. We are also developing the signal processing tool chain needed to produce 3D images using this probe.

Future scopes: Later we will realize the real-time monitoring and fusion with multimodality applications e.g. CT or MRI. With the integrated position sensor and full control of the 3D beamforming, a unique device for interventional monitoring can be realized. We are very hopeful that this will lead us to a new era of 3D TEE usage.

. Figure 1: Block diagram of the TEE transducer and the imaging system 

Figure 1: Block diagram of the TEE transducer and the imaging system