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Five Ultrasound-Related Facts You May (or May Not) Already Know

File:Bat echolocation.jpg1. Echolocation & Medical Ultrasound
Animals, like bats, dolphins, whales and shrews, rely on echolocation to navigate around their surroundings. These animals emit sound waves or vocalizations which bounce off objects in their environment. The animals are able to decipher the echoes to figure out where and how far an object is. When bats echolocate, they produce ultrasonic sounds, which means the sounds’ frequency is higher than what humans can hear. The high frequency of sound waves and the process of sound waves bouncing back (‘echoing’) characteristic of echolocation are key principles of medical/diagnostic ultrasound.

2. Five-Dimensional Ultrasound?
You know there are 2D, 3D, even 4D ultrasound technologies (4D meaning four dimensions, the fourth being “in real time”). Did you know there is at least one group of John Hopkins University professors/researchers/doctors who have invented a “Robotic 5-dimensional ultrasound”?  Emad M. Boctor, Michael Choti, Gabor Fichtinger, Jerry L. Prince and Russell Taylor described their invention (on their patent application) as “A robotic 5D ultrasound system and method, for use in a computer integrated surgical system, wherein 3D ultrasonic image data is integrated over time with strain (i.e., elasticity) image data.” According to Dr. Taylor’s curriculum vitae, the robotic 5D ultrasound was patented in 2011.

3. Father of Medical Ultrasound
John J. Wild (1914-2009) is considered by many to be the Father of Medical Ultrasound. “In 1949 he made the groundbreaking discovery that sonic energy (pulse-echo ultrasound) was reflected as echoes from soft biological tissues,” stated The Telegraph article from 2009, describing how Wild and colleagues originally tinkered with military and aircraft equipment that included ultrasonic capabilities. “Realising the significance of the discovery, Wild went on to pioneer a new field of medicine, and produced the first real-time ultrasonic images of a living human patient.” Wild is particularly known for using ultrasound to diagnose cancer.

4. Obstetric Ultrasound and Produce!
During your pregnancy, you’ll probably notice your baby’s significant growth from your first obstetric ultrasound to the next. And when you’re wondering how big your baby is on any given day (when not staring at an ultrasound screen), you can think of the fetal fruit chart! For example, at 4 weeks a baby inside the womb is approximately the size of a poppy seed; at 9 weeks the size of a grape or olive; at 12 weeks the size of a lime, at 20 weeks the length of a banana; at 32 weeks the size of a squash, and so on…

File:1 The Fossil Hunter.JPG

Robert Hooke at ten years of age. Painting by artist Rita Greer. (Licence Art Libre)

5. Robert Hooke Had a Feeling…
Robert Hooke (1635-1703), an accomplished British polymath/scientist (known for such accomplishments as Hooke’s Law, deriving the biological term “cell,” and his work with microscopes) had a feeling sound waves (i.e. ultrasound) could some day be used for medical diagnostic purposes. According to Diagnostic Ultrasound Imaging: Inside Out by Thomas L. Szabó, Hooke wrote this prediction:

“It may be possible to discover the motions of the internal parts of bodies, whether animal, vegetable, or mineral, by the sound they make; that one may discover the works performed in the several offices and shops of a man’s body, and thereby (sic) discover what instrument or engine is out of order…I could proceed further, but methinks I can hardly forbear to blush when I consider how the most part of men will look upon this: but, yet again, I have this encouragement, not to think all these things utterly impossible.”

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