As technology evolves, the medical field frequently benefits from the introduction of new tools and techniques. These new innovations can be designed to shorten procedure time, and to make diagnoses more informed and more accurate. One such advancement in the field of medical sonography is 4D ultrasound imaging.
4D imaging represents two advancements over traditional, 2D ultrasound imaging. In 2D imaging (photo, top), sound waves are shot straight down by the transducer, the reflected echoes are picked up and converted into electrical pulses, and the pulses are turned into a digital image. The image is relatively grainy and low-resolution, due to the small size of the receiving sensor arrays, as well as distortion from the human body’s natural structure.
The first advancement over this technique is 3D imaging (photo, bottom), which is a component of 4D. Rather than sending sound waves straight down, the transducer sends them at different angles. A sophisticated computer program then interprets the reflected echoes, allowing a much more detailed image of the structure’s surface and internal components. The resulting still image is sharper and more textured, allowing doctors to see detailed surface features of the object.
The next step in the evolution of this new imaging technology is to take many of these 3D still images in succession, producing a moving three-dimensional image, and thus adding the fourth dimension of time. The result is a complex, moving 4D image, and the latest innovation in ultrasound technology.
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