$2K ultrasound probe for iPhones gets FDA nod

By Kate Madden Yee, AuntMinnie.com staff writer

October 27, 2017 -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared a portable ultrasound transducer that is based on a semiconductor chip, is designed to work with iPhones, and will sell for around $2,000. The device will make imaging accessible to a much broader audience, according to the company.

The clearance for Butterfly Network's ultrasound-on-a-chip imaging system, Butterfly iQ, covers 13 clinical applications and is the broadest for a single ultrasound transducer, the firm said.

Butterfly IQ for the iPhone
Image courtesy of Butterfly Network.

The device costs $1,999 and combines capabilities of the typical three probes used in ultrasound into a single ultrawide-band 2D matrix array made up of microelectromechanical systems. Its sensors are overlaid on an integrated circuit that encompasses the electronics of a high-performance ultrasound system, Butterfly Network said. The company holds 33 patents that cover the combining of micromachines and integrated circuits.

Butterfly iQ also features a HIPAA-compliant cloud archiving system for image storage, physician collaboration, and medical record sharing, the company said. The firm plans to demonstrate the device at the upcoming American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) conference in Washington, DC.

The company has also developed artificial intelligence applications designed to work with Butterfly IQ hardware and help both physicians and less-skilled users interpret images. The company plans to release "assistance and interpretation" functionality in 2018 as a software add-on.

Butterfly founder and chairman Jonathan Rothberg, PhD, believes the system has the potential to revolutionize medical imaging in the same way that digital semiconductor technology revolutionized the photography and computing industries.

"Just as putting a camera on a semiconductor chip made photography accessible to anyone with a smartphone and putting a computer on a chip enabled the revolution in personal computing before that, Butterfly's ultrasound-on-a-chip technology enables a low-cost window into the human body, making high-quality diagnostic imaging accessible to anyone," Rothberg said.


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