New Ways AI and Ultrasound are Working Together

During a prenatal ultrasound, the technician’s job is to scan the pregnant woman’s womb and get images of the baby. Depending on how far along the mother-to-be is, the baby may be active and moving in the womb, which can pose a challenge for the tech. Furthermore, a standard ultrasound scan produces hundreds of images—if a doctor wants to see a specific one, then they have to flip through all the images to find it.

Artificial intelligence is helping to ease challenges like these. AI can consume, process, and analyze massive of amounts of data in real time at high speeds, improving efficiency and diagnostics and creating clearer images during these medical exams. With its ability to pick out the ideal image from thousands in a data set, artificial intelligence is leading to the automation of time-consuming tasks.

Ultrasound technology has vastly evolved over the years, and integrating AI into ultrasound systems began a few years ago with the goal of increasing workflow and speed. Artificial intelligence makes it possible for the doctor to pull a specific image and all associated images automatically. It can also select the best scanning slice view for a specific exam, extract it from a 3D dataset, and improve the reproducibility—all regardless of the sonographer’s skill level. Many high-end medical systems have already integrated some level of AI, and most new systems going forward will automatically feature AI.

Ultrasound machines use anatomical intelligence, whereas AI can instantly identify, color-code, and segment the anatomy in the scanning area. The automation provides visual mapping of screened anatomy with minimal user interaction. In a standard exam of the human brain, it takes several minutes for the user to identify the planes in the brain, and knowing the planes requires a lot of training and work. With AI, the user will only need a starting point on the brain, and the system will take the necessary measurements and store them.

Some companies are also adding AI voice recognition features to their ultrasound machines. The new voice-activated controls will allow the sonographer to operate the machine hands-free. Alternatively, the technician can hold the probe in one hand and the needle in another and conduct the procedure without an assistant. Voice activation frees up the tech to focus on the patient and the image instead of switching hands and reaching to adjust the machine.