Ultrasound technology uses sound waves passed into the body from the outside to generate two and three-dimensional images of body cavities and internal body structures. It has been used since early this century in medical, geological and oceanographic applications. Ultrasound is recognized as a non-invasive, non-radiative, real-time and inexpensive imaging technique.
The preferential treatment for gastrointestinal disorders is rapidly changing from open surgery towards minimally invasive surgery, and new methods for diagnostic and interventional methods are emerging. Ultrasound is highly effective in studying internal organs such as the liver and gallbladder, and detecting abnormalties in size, shape, or tissue density. Ultrasound can detect masses, lesions, or other changes in cell structure which then dictate further exploration. Ultrasound is completely non-invasive and does not even require insertion of scopes or other instruments, making this diagnostic technique the choice of both doctors and patients.
However, ultrasound cannot image the inside of internal organs and structures. When combined with endocscopy or laparoscopy, ultrasound can be extremely beneficial in these areas as well. For example, the gastrointestinal tract is readily visualized by endoscopic ultrasound (EUS), which has a higher accuracy than conventional imaging techniques for tumor staging.
Advanced gastroenterology research centers around the world are working on three-dimensional visualization using endoscopic and laparoscopic ultrasound, and applied techniques for interventional therapy in minimally invasive surgery. The combination with three-dimensional visualization and endoluminal/laparoscopic ultrasound adds important information, not available with conventional two dimensional imaging techniques. Such techniques may also lead to improvements in the diagnostic methods and overall better treatment of patients with gastrointestinal disorders.