Ultrasound's future sounds clear and bright

Ultrasound continues to be a growth modality, offering an inexpensive and portable alternative to CT and MRI. As ultrasound technology advances, we can expect it to make greater inroads, especially in breast imaging, where it is growing from an adjunct position to what may be a more prominent role.

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One of the hottest growth areas within ultrasound is 3D imaging. Once thought of as merely an interesting tool for prenatal imaging, some clinicians now believe that the vivid reconstructions available with 3D ultrasound could make the modality more competitive with MRI and CT.

Cardiologists are learning to use real-time 3D ultrasound in contrast perfusion imaging and echocardiography, as an adjunct or the primary modality in certain studies. Another advantage is that 3D ultrasound is less operator-dependent than 2D ultrasound, as the typical 3D reconstruction doesn't depend on a single transducer position.

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The availability and low cost of cart-based or compact ultrasound systems has brought the technology into the operating room and the emergency department, and lately, onto the battlefield in Iraq. Software advancements and increased processing power make these smaller devices possible. Indeed, the hand-carried devices are the fastest-growing segment of the ultrasound market.

Click on the links below to view the high points in ultrasound at this year's RSNA conference.

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