For now, this wireless transducer is compatible with the Acuson Freestyle, bringing to the system more freedom and – almost more importantly – enabling sterile procedures, thus significantly lowering infection risks.
Something already used in taking X-rays also will be possible soon for ultrasound, thanks to mobile detectors – wireless transmission of image data to the system console. Siemens has developed a new technology specifically to transmit large data volume from the transducer to the system. ‘The ultra-wideband (UWB) is 75 times faster than Bluetooth,’ explains Peter Hildebrandt, Director for Ultrasound in the General Imaging Segment EMEA at Siemens Healthcare. ‘It works at a frequency of eight gigahertz and can transmit 20 frames per second and even higher picture rates. By comparison, the fastest consumer smartphone currently works with four gigahertz. The new UWB can therefore transmit twice as much data – the higher the frequency, the higher the data transmission rate. Communication between the transducer and the system works via antennae. A user interface allows remote control of the system via the transducer. In a similar way to an iPad, several menus can be selected to adjust depth and brightness. The examiner has an ergonomic advantage as they do not have to trail a cable and there is less strain on the arm muscles during longer scans.’
However, for him, the sterile environment is even more important ‘Be it in anaesthesiology, interventional radiology, emergency medicine or intensive care, procedures often have to be carried out close to cuts and orifices under ultrasound guidance, and all these procedures must clearly be sterile.’ Sterilising a transducer and cable had been complex, error-prone and time-consuming. ‘Now you can drop the transducer into a bag, seal it and start scanning,’ he explained.
The advantages are considerable. Almost all ICU patients today are catheterised and catheter-related infection costs an additional €40,000 per patient. A non-sterile transducer poses a big risk, which can be eliminated when using the new wireless transducers. Not only can they be placed in disinfectant or sterilised with gas, they make it possible for each doctor and, in theory, even each patient to have their own transducer. ‘The system console is installed in the ICU, the doctor goes to the patient, presses two buttons to connect transducer and the system and can scan immediately. This is certainly a concept with a future,’ explains Hildebrandt.
Whether or not it establishes itself will, as always, also depend on the price, with the wireless transducers for the Acuson Freestyle unlikely to be considerably above the usual budget. Three different transducers are currently available: a low-frequency linear model for deeper regions, a high-frequency linear version with good resolution for superficial structures and a curved array model for the abdominal area.