Imaging helps diagnose pediatric congenital heart disease

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New ultrasound technology has for the first time been used on pediatric patients to create detailed images of the internal structure and blood flow in baby hearts.

Called vector flow imaging, the commercially available system was successfully tested and could potentially improve detection and diagnosis of congenital heart disease in infants and small children.

“The use of vector flow imaging in the assessment of cardiac structures has previously been limited to epicardial imaging,” according to a new study by researchers at the University of Arkansas. “We demonstrate that transthoracic vector flow imaging has sufficient penetration and visualization for pediatric clinical applications.”

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“Vector flow imaging technology is not yet possible in adults, but we have demonstrated that it is feasible in pediatric patients,” says Morten Jensen, associate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Arkansas. “Our group demonstrated that this commercially available technology can be used as a bedside imaging method, providing advanced detail of blood flow patterns within cardiac chambers, across valves and in the great arteries.”

Researchers used a BK5000 Ultrasound machine with built-in vector flow imaging on two three-month-old babies, enabling total transthoracic imaging of tissue and blood flow at a depth of 6.5 centimeters—with abnormal flow and detailed cardiac anomalies clearly observed in the patient with congenital heart disease.

The authors plan to conduct further studies using the technology.

“Future studies will focus on quantification using the vector information provided by vector flow imaging, which will require the development of new software for this novel application,” state the authors. “Future work will focus on quantifications using vector flow imaging, of particular interest being vortex assessment in the left ventricle as irregular vorticity formation is believed to lead to irreversible left ventricular remodeling in children.”

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