Tiny Optical Ultrasound Needle to Revolutionize Heart Surgery

Currently, doctors rely on external ultrasound probes combined with pre-operative imaging scans to visualize soft tissue and organs during keyhole procedures, as the miniature surgical instruments used do not support internal ultrasound imaging. Now, heart tissue can now be imaged in real-time during keyhole procedures using a new optical ultrasound needle developed by researchers at University College London  and Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). The technology has been successfully used for minimally invasive heart surgery in pigs, giving an unprecedented, high-resolution view of soft tissues up to 2.5 cm in front of the instrument, inside the body. The technology uses a miniature optical fiber encased within a customized clinical needle to deliver a brief pulse of light which generates ultrasonic pulses. Reflections of these ultrasonic pulses from tissue are detected by a sensor on a second optical fibre, giving real-time ultrasound imaging to guide surgery.