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Special Probes Improve Ultrasound Scan Quality of Abdominal Organs in Obese Patients

By MedImaging International staff writers
Posted on 17 Oct 2023
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Image: Special probes can improve ultrasound imaging in obese patients (Photo courtesy of 123RF)
Image: Special probes can improve ultrasound imaging in obese patients (Photo courtesy of 123RF)

Ultrasound imaging is often the go-to method for examining abdominal organs, primarily because it's widely accessible and eliminates the need for harmful radiation, unlike other techniques such as CT scans and MRIs. However, the effectiveness of ultrasound is limited in people who are obese, as the quality of their anatomical images declines. Until now, there has been limited research on the specific level of obesity at which ultrasound becomes less accurate. Now, a new clinical study has found the quality of ultrasound scans of the liver and kidneys to be significantly lower in obese patients but can be improved with the use of modern probes with matrix technology.

The study at Leipzig University (Saxony, Germany) involved 40 participants, who underwent a highly standardized ultrasound scan of their abdomen using three different types of probes: one standard probe and two high-performance ones. The aim was to assess the liver and right kidney in individuals with various levels of obesity and to score the quality of the ultrasound images obtained. The researchers found the ultrasound image quality for the liver and kidneys declines significantly as a patient's body mass index increases. However, the study also revealed that advanced probes equipped with matrix technology can somewhat arrest this decline in image quality.

Matrix probes have superior sending and receiving capabilities, allowing for deeper penetration into body tissue, thereby enhancing the diagnostic accuracy in patients who are at higher risk. The effectiveness of these advanced probes in obese individuals still requires further scientific verification. Future research is planned to see if these advanced probes perform better in specialized applications, such as measuring liver fat content and liver stiffness, compared to traditional methods.

“Particularly in centers that specialize in the care of obese patients, for example, in diabetology, nutritional medicine or bariatric surgery, ultrasound equipment with matrix probes should be available for abdominal examinations,” said Professor Thomas Karlas, head of the study.

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