Over the past few years, CapeRay has developed novel imaging systems such as Aceso that have incorporated automated breast ultrasound (ABUS) technology. I am therefore always on the lookout for novel ABUS systems and this week I came across a recent paper in Scientific Reports (click here to download) entitled “Cost-effective, portable, patient-dedicated three-dimensional automated breast ultrasound for point-of-care breast cancer screening.” A group of researchers located at academic institutions in Ontario, Canada, have designed, built, and tested their ABUS device on three healthy volunteers (two females and one male).
As seen in the diagram above right (© Nature), the system consists of a dam assembly that is 3D-printed, an ultrasound probe (in pink), an adaptable ultrasound cradle that is mounted on a motorized linear scanner, and a compression assembly. The system can accommodate any commercial probe and for their device the researchers used a 10 MHz linear array transducer manufactured by Canon (length = 58mm, element pitch = 0.3mm). The acquisition window was 105mm x 105mm with a penetration depth of 60mm, while the weight of the system was 1.6kg.
As seen in the diagram at left (© Nature), the system was strapped onto the volunteer who then lay supine on a bed, and low viscosity ultrasound gel was poured into the dam assembly to cover the breast. This ensured acoustic coupling of the transducer to the breast once the motorized 3D ABUS scanner had been rigidly mounted onto the top plate. This set up process took approximately 10 minutes, while the actual acquisition of the ABUS images required a further 30 seconds.
The researchers then demonstrated that they were able to acquire 3D images of anatomical structures of their healthy volunteers, “including the skin, nipple, areola, subcutaneous fat lobules, subcutaneous fat layer, glandular tissues (ducts and lobules), Cooper’s ligaments, pectoralis muscles, pleura, ribs, intercostal muscles, and lungs.” See the coronal view of a female volunteer’s breast below right (© Nature).
Now, while the developers of this innovative device were understandably upbeat about its potential as a breast screening system, they nevertheless acknowledged it had some limitations. First, because their prototype was designed around a bulky cart-based ultrasound acquisition system (Canon Aplio i800), it was not really “portable” and therefore could not be readily deployed in a limited-resource setting. Second, the small imaging window and short transducer meant they could not acquire images of all breast sizes in a reasonable time. And finally, given the lengthy set up time, patient throughput would be seriously compromised, further limiting the system’s utility.