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Radiologists developing revolutionary advances in ultrasound technology

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa radiologists are among the first physicians in the world using a dramatically improved digital ultrasound imaging system. The revolutionary new system allows clinicians for the first time to view panoramic images of the body's internal organs, instead of viewing only a single organ or laboriously piecing together a series of images.

"Now we have a panoramic view in 'real time' (the beating heart, a moving fetus, or functioning internal organs)," says Dr. Michael Vannier, director of radiology at the UI Hospitals and Clinics. "This new system saves examination time and gives a much better image of complex anatomy."

The "Siescape imaging system" uses a powerful programmable image processor and a sophisticated new computer software program to enhance images created on a conventional Siemens ultrasound system."

Ultrasound, as with other radiologic diagnostic systems, is in the midst of revolutionary change. Traditional film-based ultrasound images are being replaced by computerized digital images that can be stored on disks. These disks provide a permanent record of the patient's diagnostic images and can be taken to different workstations for evaluation by multiple specialists.

Furthermore, computerized ultrasound systems are programmable, meaning their uses can be expanded as new software is developed.

"The real news for us is not what our Siemens ultrasound machine does now, but all the advanced applications we can anticipate in the future," Vannier says. "We are actively developing new imaging methods and collaborating with Siemens engineers to expand the capabilities of this unique instrument."

These potential new enhancements include eye-popping three-dimensional images of the human anatomy. Current ultrasound systems produce two-dimensional images.

UIHC radiologist Dr. Monzer Abu-Yousef, a specialist in ultrasound technology, says, "This isn't something that we're going to keep bottled up here at the university. We will share our radiologic expertise and establish valuable support and educational linkages with our physician colleagues throughout Iowa and adjoining states."

Joe Ahladis, vice president of sales and marketing for Siemens Ultrasound, says that earlier this year, the latest Siemens ultrasound system became one of the world's first to incorporate internal networking capabilities.

This "instant connectivity" is essential to the UI's burgeoning teleradiology consultation practice in Iowa and western Illinois, Ahladis says. Teleradiology permits community physicians at distant sites to electronically transmit diagnostic images for evaluation by radiologists at UIHC.

"With this new system," Vannier says, "a radiologist can view images obtained down the hall or 100 miles away, all from a single workstation. Patients in rural areas no longer need to travel long distances to urban health centers in order to benefit from the latest technology. We can bring the technology to them, saving money and better serving out patients."