Soon doctors may get a more penetrating look at their patients.
George Stetten, a bioengineer at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, has created a portable ultrasound device that can be pointed at any part of the body to reveal what's going on under the skin. Like conventional ultrasound machines, the sonic flashlight constructs an image of internal anatomy by beaming high-frequency sound waves at the body and mapping how the waves bounce back. But Stetten found a way to dispense with the cumbersome computer displays. His wandlike device reflects the three-dimensional ultrasound image off a thin, translucent mirror, as shown above, and could be especially useful for helping doctors perform precise biopsies. Stetten, a former medical student, envisions a pocket-size sonic flashlight to make it easier for doctors to draw blood or master difficult injections. "I was always interested in finding a better way to stick needles in people," Stetten says.
Photograph courtesy of George Stetten/The Robotics Institute, CMU