New imaging technique could help detect heart disease in pediatric patients

Researchers have used a new ultrasound-based imaging technique, vector flow imaging, on pediatric patients for the first time, publishing their findings in Progress in Pediatric Cardiology.

“Vector flow imaging technology is not yet possible in adults, but we have demonstrated that it is feasible in pediatric patients,” study co-author Morten Jensen, associate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, said in a news release from the university. “Our group demonstrated that this commercially available technology can be used as a bedside imaging method, providing advanced detail of blood flow patterns within cardiac chambers, across valves and in the great arteries.”

As much as providers depend on ultrasound to treat babies born with congenital heart defects, the modality still has certain limitations, according to the researchers, such as its inability to properly image blood flow within the heart. Vector flow imaging, however, was able to image blood flow at a depth of 6.5 cm in two three-month-old babies.

“This technology will increase our ability to provide the best possible bedside diagnosis and greatly enhances our understanding of what is happening in hearts with complex abnormalities,” lead author Thomas Collins, MD, clinical associate professor of pediatric cardiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, said in the news release.

“We are still getting used to having this great, new information readily available, and we’re excited about the future in both research and direct clinical advancements,” added co-author Elijah Bolin, MD, a pediatric cardiologist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.