A new ultrasound imaging technology that may offer novel ways to diagnose and better understand cardiac diseases using dynamic blood flow imaging. This allows imaging of individual blood cells or contrast bubbles as they travel through the heart and vessels, showing detail in how the blood moves and swirls. These motions, including the formation of vortices, may offer new insight into different disease states and allow earlier diagnosis and a understand better when to intervene.
The examples shown in this short video are from Hitachi and GE Healthcare, both of which have highlighted this technology at the American Society of Echocardiography (ASE) annual meetings over the past four years.
Ultrasound vendors use different technology approaches, including vector flow imaging, particle imaging velocimetry and blood speckle tracking. All of them show small lines or arrows to indicate the direction the blood cells or bubbles are traveling, and color codes to indicate velocity. Some vendors offer quantification for some new measures of blood flow, but as of yet, there are no guidelines or standardized indexes as to what these numbers mean.
This technology has been discussed in research sessions at the IEEE and the ASE over the past several years. However, more research is needed to show the prognostic value of the technology. Research to date shows it is possible that the swirling of blood can indicate less efficient flow, which may have implications in the development of heart failure, pulmonary hypertension and advancement of valvular disease. In the coronary arteries, research has shown there may be a connection between sheer stresses and disrupted blood flow in the formation of plaques on artery walls.
Companies that have developed echo blood flow dynamics imaging on their ultrasound systems to date include Hitachi, GE Healthcare, Fujifilm, Mindray and BK Medical.
Read more about this technology from ASE 2021 in the article Development of Echo Blood Flow Dynamics Imaging.