Ultrasound uses 3-D technology for a clear picture

May 20, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
An evolving technology is giving expecting parents an amazing view of their unborn babies and the software behind it is helping to drive the 3-D revolution in the gaming world as well.

Ultrasound works by sending sound waves into tissue, those waves then bounce off the tissue and create an image. While many obstetricians prefer to limit the number of ultrasounds a pregnant woman gets, this new technology offers the clearest images yet.

Mira Datta-Nabatt is living an experience that's magical for most expectant mothers -- getting a look at her unborn daughter with ultrasound. But in a moment that experience gets even more magical. With the flick of a switch, Datta-Nabatt's daughter to be is displayed in 3-D. The effect is created by a powerful ultrasound, recently updated with new software by manufacturer, Siemens. Datta-Nabatt says it makes her feels even more connected with her unborn child.

"You want to reach out and you want to grab her, you want to pinch the cheeks. You know you want to start taking care of her," said Datta-Nabatt.

A few minutes later, using 3-D glasses, Datta-Nabatt will be able to see the effect even more vividly. Siemens says the system can enhance and brighten features in real time, sort of like having a flashlight in the womb, all with enough resolution to help doctors identify some congenital conditions, and explain them to parents.

"The patient can better understand what they're looking at and get a better direction of where they would like to go," said Lisa Thompson, from Siemens.

And if the images seem like something out of a movie, it may be because the graphics processor that's capturing them is also used for special effects. Danny Shapiro is with NVIDIA, the Mountain View company best known for its work in the video gaming world. He says their technology is now making dramatic changes in medical imaging.

"There's hundreds of cores on the GPU, so it can do this very fast, much faster than a CPU and you're able to analyze and construct and image that a doctor and patient can actually interact with," said Danny Shapiro from NVIDIA.

And by enhancing the ultrasound signal, the Siemens device can also produce 3-dimensonal images of an infant's skeletal structure. For Datta-Nabatt, the images provide a mix of wonderment, and relief.

"I want her to be healthy. That's the first and foremost thing that comes in my mind and when you see something defined, the rib cage, it makes you realize this is a real person," said Datta-Nabatt.

And we have an update for you. Shortly after we met Datta-Nabatt, she gave birth to a healthy baby daughter.

Written and produced by Tim Didion

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