MIT researchers are developing a wearable ultrasound patch for easy organ monitoring

Photo credit: MIT

MIT researchers have developed an extraordinary ultrasound monitor that can be worn like a band-aid.

This device makes it easier to visualize internal organs without the need for a professional operator or messy gel commonly used in traditional ultrasound procedures.

In a recent study, the MIT team showed that their new patch can effectively image the bladder and measure its fullness.

This development is particularly beneficial for people with bladder or kidney disease, as it allows them to monitor the function of their organs more conveniently.

The researchers believe this technology can be adapted to monitor other organs by simply repositioning the ultrasound array and adjusting the frequency of the signal. This means it could potentially be used for early detection of deep-seated cancers such as ovarian cancer.

Canan Dagdeviren, associate professor at MIT’s Media Lab and lead author of the study, emphasized the versatility of the technology. It can identify and characterize various diseases in the body, not only bladder diseases.

The idea for this ultrasound patch came partly from a personal experience. Dagdeviren was motivated to work on this project after her brother, who had been diagnosed with kidney cancer, had problems emptying his bladder after surgery.

She imagined how such a monitor could help patients like her brother or those with other kidney or bladder problems.

Currently, measuring bladder volume in a medical facility is only possible using a traditional, bulky ultrasound probe. The team’s goal was to create a portable alternative for the home. To achieve this, they designed a flexible silicone rubber patch embedded with five ultrasound arrays made from a newly developed piezoelectric material.

The arrays are arranged in a cross shape and cover the entire bladder, which measures approximately 12 by 8 centimeters when filled.

The polymer of the patch is naturally adhesive, making it easy to apply and remove. It stays in place when worn under clothing such as underwear or leggings.

In collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital, researchers conducted a study with 20 patients with different body mass indices (BMI).

The subjects were imaged with a full, partially empty and completely empty bladder. The patch images were comparable in quality to traditional ultrasound and were effective at all BMIs.

Unlike traditional ultrasound probes, this patch does not require gel or pressure application as its field of view is large enough to cover the entire bladder.

The MIT team is currently developing a wearable device similar in size to a smartphone to display the images. This advancement is part of a larger goal to develop a range of devices that can bridge the information gap between doctors and patients.

Beyond bladder monitoring, researchers want to adapt this technology to also image other organs such as the pancreas, liver or ovaries. They plan to adjust the frequency of the ultrasound signal by developing new piezoelectric materials. For some organs deeper in the body, the team is considering implants instead of wearable patches.

This innovation could become an important focus in ultrasound research and the development of future medical devices. Anantha Chandrakasan, dean of the School of Engineering at MIT and co-author of the study, sees this as a basis for further collaborations in various scientific areas.

In summary, this new ultrasound patch from MIT researchers offers a simple, non-invasive way for individuals to monitor their bladder and potentially other organs, enabling high-tech medical monitoring in the comfort of their own home.

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