This platform is a quite of software tools, code-based tutorials and guidance that forms a toolkit enabling researchers to quickly and easily acquire ultrasound (US) image data in a clinical setting.
Although US is generally very well-suited to being used in a wide range of surgical and non- surgical interventions, a number of difficulties are commonly encountered in an interventional setting, including:
i) The inability to access low-level (i.e. RF or pre-scan-converted) digital image data in realtime from many clinical ultrasound scanners;
ii) The difficulty in acquiring high-quality in vivo images. In many cases, this problem is partly due limited understanding and experience of many interventional clinicians and technical researchers in the practice of US imaging, and partly due to fundamental limitations of standard US imaging modes (primarily B-mode and Colour Doppler imaging) that give rise to artefacts and other sources of error, which can be especially problematic in an interventional setting (e.g. gross artefacts due to instruments, a very limited field-of-view, etc).
iii) A widespread lack of access to non-standard imaging modes, such as realtime 3D/4D imaging (using a matrix-array transducer), shear-wave elastography, tissue harmonic imaging, non-Doppler flow imaging, etc. Many of these modes are now available on commercial scanners, but they are not always readily accessible on research ultrasound scanners. More critically, highly-specialised imaging modes are typically not available on commercial systems, but may be particularly useful for certain interventional applications, such as ablation monitoring or instrument localisation. Furthermore, many applications require multiple modes to be combined and implemented in a non-standard way; for instance, to present data from different modes in a way that is most clinically meaningful for the application or research question. Invariably, most research technology within the scope of WEISS will also rely heavily on processing of acquired data, which is ideally is performed in realtime during an interventional procedure.
This platform addresses these issues by creating a resource that improves access to US imaging using a wide variety of modes and, importantly, enables highly-specialised modes for specific interventional applications to be designed, developed and deployed rapidly for translational research.
Dr Dean Barratt