Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Intelligent Machines

3-D Ultrasound

How 3-D ultrasound works.

Baby’s first picture is usually not a Kodak moment but a grainy black-and-white sonogram. Such images-generated with ultrasound technology that sends harmless sound waves into the mother’s womb and measures what bounces back-usually tax the imagination of anxious parents trying to discern a foot, rump, or face. Images produced with new 3-D ultrasound technology, however, are a marked improvement. The system uses a monitor, computer controls, a processing unit, and a handheld transducer probe, which emits and collects sound waves, to render nose, lips, eyes, fingers, and toes in astonishing detail. It’s as if someone photographed a clay model of the fetus.

Ultrasound was first used for clinical diagnosis in 1942 by Austrian psychiatrist and neurologist Karl Dussik. By the 1980s, improvements in microprocessor speed had advanced it into the 3-D arena. Kazunori Baba of the University of Tokyo, Japan, devised the first successful 3-D ultrasound system for obstetrics in 1984; it compiled a series of 2-D “slices” into a 3-D sonogram. But it has really been in the last couple of years that inexpensive computer technology has made it possible to acquire, reconstruct, and display 3-D images quickly, says Aaron Fenster, director and scientist at the Robarts Research Institute’s Imaging Research Laboratories in London, Ontario.

Today the technology is being developed by a wide range of companies, including Philips Research, General Electric, and Siemens. Its improved imaging allows doctors to identify or rule out defects such as cleft lips, club feet, and vertebral malformations.”I would expect that in five years, every ultrasound machine in use will have a 3-D option,” says Fenster.

This story is part of our July/August 2003 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

Applications for 3-D ultrasound extend outside the realm of obstetrics, too. Radiologists use the technology to locate blood clots in veins and arteries; perform noninvasive breast biopsies on suspicious lesions; diagnose problems in muscles, tendons, or joints; and analyze pains or masses in the abdomen or thyroid. But most people will associate 3-D ultrasound technology with that first glimpse of a new life-the unmistakable faces and features of their yet unborn daughters and sons.

The latest Insider Conversation is live! Listen to the story behind the story.

Subscribe today
Already a Premium subscriber? Log in.

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.