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Ultrafast Ultrasound Imaging Technique Captures 1000 Images per Second

By MedImaging International staff writers
Posted on 18 Jan 2024
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Image: Vascular changes in acute and diabetic renal failure (Photo courtesy of POSTECH)
Image: Vascular changes in acute and diabetic renal failure (Photo courtesy of POSTECH)

The kidney's critical role in filtering waste and excess substances from the bloodstream can be severely impacted by conditions like hypertension and diabetes, potentially leading to kidney failure. This irreversible condition requires lifelong management through artificial hemodialysis or kidney transplantation. The direct connection between blood perfusion in the kidneys and their filtration function makes microvascular imaging a crucial tool for both the prevention and treatment of kidney failure.

Contemporary imaging techniques such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) face challenges in accurately capturing fine vascular structures. This is due to their inherent limitations in resolution and sensitivity. Additionally, in patients with kidney disease, the use of contrast agents in these methods is limited due to the risk of potentially fatal side effects. On the other hand, ultrasound imaging, known for its safety even in fetal monitoring, uses the Doppler effect to measure blood flow velocity and direction in real time without requiring contrast agents. However, traditional ultrasound imaging speeds are not sufficient to capture the fine blood vessels with the necessary sensitivity.

A research team at Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH, Pohang, South Korea) has realized significant advancements in microvascular sensitivity. They have achieved this by employing ultrafast ultrasound acquisition techniques that capture images at 1,000 frames per second, over 100 times faster than conventional ultrasound methods. This breakthrough allowed them to image the three-dimensional microvasculature of the kidneys without the need for any contrast agents. In a pioneering feat, they achieved imaging of the entire three-dimensional vascular network of the renal artery, vein, and the minute 167μm (micrometer) thick interlobular arteries and veins in the renal cortex.

Additionally, the team conducted a continuous observation of renal vascular changes in an animal model with induced renal failure. Through this, they performed a multivariate analysis using various hemodynamic and vascular morphological indicators. Their findings revealed a significant decrease in renal blood flow during acute renal failure. In cases of diabetic nephropathy, they observed chronic vascular degeneration in the kidneys, characterized by vascular distortion. This innovative imaging technique holds promise in revolutionizing the monitoring and treatment of kidney diseases.

"The system allows us to understand the pathophysiology of diseases leading to kidney failure, enabling the observation of vascular changes before and after kidney transplantation," said Professor Chulhong Kim. "It has significant potential to be used to study blood circulation and functional impairment across various organs including the digestive system, circulatory system, and cerebral nervous system."

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