Ultrasound Imaging Needle Set to Transform Heart Surgery
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Ultrasound Imaging Needle Set to Transform Heart Surgery

Researchers in London have published details of a revolutionary new cardiology needle capable of imaging the heart’s soft tissues from within. The team from University College London (UCL) and Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) used the new all-optical ultrasound imaging system for heart surgery in pigs, successfully capturing high-resolution images up to 2.5cm away from the needle tip.

An all-optical ultrasound device may sound like an oxymoron, but the imaging needle relies on an embedded miniature optical fiber that transmits brief pulses of light, which in turn generate ultrasonic pulses. These ultrasonic pulses propagate away from the needle, reflecting off soft tissues before being detected by a second optical fiber in the needle housing.

For the first time live imaging can now be taken directly from inside the heart during keyhole surgery, which has the potential to offer vast improvements over current practice, where surgeons rely on preoperative imaging combined with external ultrasound probes.

“The optical ultrasound needle is perfect for procedures where there is a small tissue target that is hard to see during keyhole surgery using current methods and missing it could have disastrous consequences,” said Dr Malcolm Finlay, study co-lead and consultant cardiologist at QMUL and Barts Heart Centre.