Ultrasound (US) has undergone dramatic changes since its inception three decades ago; the original cumbersome B-mode gantry system has evolved into a high resolution real-time imaging system. This review describes both recent advances in ultrasound and contrast media and likely future developments. Technological advances in electronics and computing have revolutionized ultrasound practice with ever expanding applications. Developments in transducer materials and array designs have resulted in greater bandwidths with improvements in spatial and contrast resolution. Developments in digital signal processing have produced innovations in beam forming, image display and archiving. Technological advances have resulted in novel imaging modes which exploit the non-linear behaviour of tissue and microbubble contrast agents. Microbubble contrast agents have dramatically extended the clinical and research applications of ultrasound. Not only can Doppler studies be enhanced but also novel non-linear modes allow vessels down to the level of the microcirculation to be imaged. Functional and quantitative studies allow interrogation of a wide spectrum of tissue beds. The advent of tissue-specific agents promises to improve the sensitivity and specificity of ultrasound in the detection and characterization of focal liver lesions to rival that of computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Ultrasound has recently moved into therapeutic applications with high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) and microbubble assisted delivery of drugs and genes showing great promise.
Copyright 2002 The Royal College of Radiologists.