Wellcome / EPSRC Centre for Interventional and Surgical Sciences


Our research

Medical imaging and sensing are vital for accurate diagnosis, treatment guidance, and patient monitoring. However, a single image or measurement typically only yields part of the picture, and each medical device has its own drawbacks. Consequently, multiple devices are increasingly used simultaneously (which is referred to as “multimodal” imaging) to obtain the full picture. Examples include physiological sensing under image guidance, multiscale imaging using different imaging techniques, or image guidance during radiotherapy. Unfortunately, many medical instruments are incompatible with each other due to physical size or adverse interactions between devices.

The multimodal interventional sensing and imaging (MISI) group develops fibre-optic imaging and sensing devices that are either highly miniature, with sizes down to the width of a human hair, or immune to the sources of interference and adverse interactions typically observed in medical and surgical settings. Such devices will be integrated within interventional or robotic surgical tools, and will enable imaging and sensing during, for instance, magnetic resonance (MRI) or X-ray (CT) imaging. The following projects are ongoing to deliver on this promise:

Rapidly actuated, miniature optical ultrasound imaging

Lead: Robert Stafford-Williams

Angle cleaved fibre probe
In this project, a highly miniature, fibre-optic ultrasound sensor is combined with a proximally-placed rapid actuator. This enables high-quality, real-time 2D ultrasound imaging at a frame rate of up to 10 FPS, using an imaging probe measuring less than 2 mm in diameter. Such probes are ideally suited for interventional applications in, for instance, cardiovascular or pulmonary scenarios, such as biopsy guidance, diagnosis, and treatment monitoring. Recently, this technology has been demonstrated in vivo to visualise the opening and closing of the tri-cuspid heart valve in real-time.

Multimodal external optical ultrasound imaging

Lead: Fraser Watt

Opus handheld probe
Where conventional ultrasound imaging probes use electronic transducers to transmit and receive acoustic signals, in this project optical counterparts are developed. Comprised of just glass and plastics, such optical ultrasound transducers allow for the same versatile and handheld application as conventional imaging probes, but are inherently immune to electromagnetic interference. This enables applications in challenging settings, such as within MRI or CT scanners, or during radiotherapy. Optical ultrasound imaging probes are hence ideally suited to perform motion tracking, cardiac or breathing gating, or treatment monitoring in situations where conventional ultrasound imaging probes cannot be applied.

This project is supported by Small Project Grant PGS19-2/10006 from the Rosetrees Trust.

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Non-contact optical ultrasound imaging

Lead: Dr Erwin Alles

A sample image from the non-contact ultrasound system
Ultrasound imaging is traditionally performed using imaging probes that are placed in direct contact with the patient. However, the requirement for physical contact limits applications in crowded surgical settings, such as robot-assisted surgery, or in scenarios where the patient is at risk of infection or trauma, such as during open surgery. Within our team, a platform is being developed that enables non-contact ultrasound imaging, where ultrasound imaging is performed using beams of light instead of physical transducers. This technology will enable novel applications of ultrasound imaging, such as robot-assisted surgery, radiotherapy, or even hands-free imaging in the clinic.

This project is supported by Springboard award SBF007\100006 from the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Endobronchial Imaging With Optical Ultrasound

Lead: Shaoyan Zhang and Semyon Bodian

Principal Investigator: Prof. Adrien Desjardins

Lung biopsies are either performed under CT guidance, which offers limited imaging contrast, or under endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) imaging. In EBUS, miniature piezoelectric transducers are introduced into the bronchi to image the lungs from within, at excellent spatial and temporal resolution and high imaging contrast. However, the size of EBUS probes restricts its application to just the largest bronchi, meaning that the lower half of the lungs is inaccessible. To allow for EBUS imaging at greater depths, highly miniature optical ultrasound imaging probes are being developed, which will be integrated with a robotic lung navigation platform for accurate delivery.

This project is supported by Standard Research grant EP/X013898/1 from the EPSRC.