Ultrasound can provide detailed images of your heart, but its size makes it impractical for continuous scanning, especially outside the hospital. However, it could be much more portable in the future. Researchers have developed a wearable ultrasound patch that provides real-time heart images even when you’re moving. It also uses deep learning to automatically calculate ventricular volume and generate performance statistics. For example, you would know your cardiac output at any time.
The device uses piezoelectric (ie, pressure-driven) transducers to perform deep tissue imaging. Stretchable liquid metal electrodes, meanwhile, allow the ultrasound imager to stay close to your skin while remaining compact. Previous attempts at portable ultrasonic arrays relied on metal thin films that limited design complexity.
The technology is not close to production. Scientists want to continue miniaturizing the system, which still needs to be connected via a flexible cable to an external processing system. The team also hopes to improve spatial resolution by using better algorithms and a larger AI training dataset that could better reflect the general population.
Some of the benefits are already apparent, mind you. The makers believe the wearable ultrasound could provide continuous statistics for patients with heart disease or in intensive care, including outpatients. Remote ultrasonic scans have been invented before, but often relied on wands or other cumbersome gadgets. The technology could also be useful for athletes looking to strengthen their hearts and optimize their capabilities.
The concept is not limited to one organ either. The designers say their portable ultrasound system can be generalized for use with the spine, liver and veins. In that light, the technology could provide freedom for many patients and athletes who would otherwise have to visit clinics or hospitals to share data about their conditions.