Improving effectiveness, compliance and safety
Ultrasound is an important clinical technique and is the second most commonly applied diagnostic imaging method in the UK after X-rays. In the UK, around 3 million obstetric and 8.5 million non-obstetric ultrasound imaging scans are carried out annually, growing at 10% per year.
For obstetric applications, where developing foetal tissue is exposed to ultrasound, safety is critical. Manufacturers must show that their equipment is compliant with existing safety requirements as stipulated by the EU Medical Device Directive or the US Food and Drug Administration reporting requirements.
Therapeutic ultrasound applications are emerging, where exposure is sufficiently high to generate irreversible changes in tissues. This change can be the result of rapid and large increases in temperature and is employed within High Intensity Focused Ultrasound surgical systems used for prostate and uterine fibroid treatments.
Key measurement tools for measuring exposure are ultrasonic hydrophones and radiation force balances. It is important that the performance of these devices is well understood, embodied within appropriate international standards and traceable to primary standards.
NPL has been in the vanguard of researching improved measurement and calibration methods able to address new measurement challenges provided by emerging medical ultrasound equipment; foremost amongst these are extended frequency ranges and elevated power output levels. Our research helps manufacturers develop new products and provides the healthcare user community with the confidence that diagnostic and therapeutic systems are safe and effective.