New technology is giving physicians a lifelike view into the human heart, allowing them to see intricate structures like chambers, valves, and vessels in 3D images strung together to show the organ beating in real time.
The software, called cSound, was developed by GE Healthcare and displays the heart more clearly than any other noninvasive procedure, such as traditional ultrasounds. CSound also eliminates the lag time present in traditional ultrasounds. These features mean less invasive procedures and more accurate diagnoses, leading to fewer follow-up tests and medical costs, said Al Lojewski, general manager of cardiovascular ultrasound at GE Healthcare.
Studies show that the transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE), one of the most widely used cardiovascular tests, is unable to diagnose patients up to 15 percent of the time. To combat this problem, engineers at GE Healthcare developed a software that reproduces ultrasound images more clearly by increasing the speed and amount of data processed. The technology is currently being used at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center.
Ultrasound works by bouncing high-frequency sound waves off of internal organs to detect their shapes, and has traditionally relied on hardware-based "beamforming," a signal processing technique that can only handle one piece of data at a time, producing less clear images.
The new cSound software can store and collect a nearly infinite amount of data, the company said, transferring it at the rate of an entire DVD playing per second.
In addition to more comprehensive picture of the heart for diagnoses, Lojewski said, the software can provide a better window into the body for less risky surgery. The key is to provide the most clear and understandable picture possible, he said, giving laymen and surgeons alike an image they can understand.
"It is about that communication," he said. "If you've got a specialized physician and they can't communicate with somebody who is in therapy like a surgeon or interventionalist cardiologist, what good is the technology?"