Low Cost Design Makes Ultrasound Affordable, Portable
A team of engineers form the Newcastle University have developed a novel ultra low cost scanner that can be plugged into any computer or laptop in order to get access to important information about the unborn child.
This new hand held device that is similar to the size of a computer mouse does function like an existing ultrasound scanner. It uses pulses of high frequency sound to build up a picture of the unborn child on the computer screen.This scanner was created by Jeff Neasham and Research Associate Dave Graham at Newcastle University. It can be manufactured at the cost of $48.6 - $64.8 approximately.This new invention will benefit the medical teams working in the poorest nations as basic antenatal information could save the lives.
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"Here in the UK we take these routine, but potentially lifesaving, tests for granted," explains Neasham, a sonar expert based in the University's School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. "Imaging to obtain even the simplest information such as the child's position in the womb or how it is developing is simply not available to women in many parts of the world. We hope the very low cost of this device and the fact that it can run on any standard computer made in the last 10 years means basic antenatal imaging could finally be made available to all women."
Neasham said, "The original aim had been to make something portable and easy to use that would be affordable in developing countries as well as for some applications in the UK where ultrasound is still considered cost prohibitive."
"Cost was the key," he explains. "The goal was to produce a device that could be produced for a similar cost to the hand-held doppler devices (fetal heart monitors) used by most community midwives. Not an easy task when you consider a £20,000 scanner is generally classed as low cost."
Neasham said, "The beauty of this device was that it would complement -- rather than replace -- the high performance scanners available in hospitals. It was my own experience of becoming a father and going through the whole antenatal process that prompted me to start the project. I was sat with my wife looking at our child on the screen, we realized how privileged we were to have access to this kind of care and it was my wife who suggested that I could apply my knowledge from sonar research to try to make this more affordable."
Neasham concludes saying, "There is obviously the potential to use it to go beyond obstetrics by using it to diagnose conditions such as gallstones, or other conditions that readily show up with ultrasound imaging. Even vets and farmers are interested in affordable imaging."