Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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New imaging approach 3D photoacoustic tomography could overcome limitations of other fatty liver disease diagnostic techniques

16 February 2023

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There are many tools at doctors’ fingertips to diagnose non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – a very common condition – including ultrasound, MRI and CT scans, and biopsy. But each of these have drawbacks, ranging from expense and risk (particularly in biopsies) to unsuitability for patients with certain implants (MRI scanning). So researchers are exploring non-invasive alternatives such as photoacoustic tomography (PAT). PAT uses both light and sound waves to generate detailed images, interpreting ultrasound waves given off by structures when laser light is fired onto them. Previously, the technology couldn’t visualise blood vessel detail and movement, but a new iteration, 3D-PAT, overcomes those limitations to precisely reveal liver vessel volume, number, and distribution (as seen in this video) while carefully correcting for the natural movement caused by regular breathing. They used the technique to compare structural differences between obese and lean rats, and hope this approach could ultimately provide quick, safe information for doctors and patients.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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