The ability to measure blood flow is essential in many diseases for understanding how much blood, oxygen and nutrients reach our tissues and organs (especially in emergency situations or also in the case of chronic illnesses), but, as strange as it may seem, even today this is far from easy to do. The technology used in hospitals and clinics worldwide does, in fact, produce pretty successful approximations, but that is just what they are – approximations.
In particular, the most widely-used methods – such as measuring pressure in millimetres using mercury and the use of ultrasound-based technology (including specific technology like the Doppler device) – are far from providing the precise and detailed picture of what we need in order to be able to provide the best treatment for patients and often depend, to a significant extent, on the operator, who is called upon to interpret the images. At the same time, diagnostic systems like specific CAT scans, which achieve the best results in various situations, are however invasive, because they generate high levels of radiation and must (or should) be used sparingly and with extreme caution. This is why those who have been studying the possible evolution of current techniques for years, and now a group of radiologists and bioengineers from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor (USA), seem to have achieved a significant result.
As reported in the scientific journal Radiology, the tool they created – an ultrasound that provides 3D images – produced significantly greater results than those achieved with traditional tools. It is totally harmless and once produced on an industrial scale it would also be highly economical.
To check the reliability of their method, the experts recruited colleagues from the Quantitative Imaging Biomarkers Alliance (a network of US specialists from the Radiological Society of North America) and invited them to conduct a series of tests using the technique developed in Michigan. The researchers used an ideal blood flow as a reference and then changed the parameters several times, until they obtained eight different simulated clinical situations. The result was very positive, because all the seven laboratories involved in the experiment came up with similar outcomes, with an overall error and difference rate of less than 10% and in several cases of just 3 to 5%. In addition, it was also confirmed that the programme is easy to install, use and therefore, could soon be available for clinical use.