Ascension Technology's miniaturized magnetic sensors enable improved procedures

Burlington 29 November 2009Ascension's magnetic trackers are facilitating a new generation of medical devices that promise to cut costs, reduce procedural times, and improve patient outcomes. Importantly for clinicians and patients, they also reduce reliance on radiation to navigate instruments to pathological sites. As such, they are a key component of Virtual Navigator - a new fusion ultrasound product developed by Esaote, a producer of medical diagnostic systems. Ascension's 3D Guidance sensors for real-time needle tracking have also been chosen by Ultrasonix Medical Corporation for its soon-to-be released ultrasound system, SonixGPS.


SonixGPS is a freehand biopsy guidance system for real-time, percutaneous biopsying of lesions without radiation or open surgery. It includes an Ascension 0.9 mm sensor in the needle tip and a 1.8 mm sensor for scanhead localization. Needle guidance is provided by CIVCO. The sensors are interfaced with image plane and visualization software for mapping probe and needle positions onto graphic overlays for precise targeting. The technology overcomes the estimation and inconsistencies of ultrasound-assisted biopsy. Clinical benefits include improved accuracy in locating deep-seated lesions, as well as faster procedures with reduced patient trauma.

"Ultrasonix is extremely excited to introduce its new SonixGPS technology", stated its Research/OEM Manager, Kris Dickie. "This revolutionary technology will make physician's procedures simpler and more effective while dramatically improving patient care. Our collaboration with Ascension has made the development of SonixGPS very efficient, and the relationship has been highly communicative."

"Ascension is committed to developing enabling sensor technology for the next great advancement in medicine: image-guided procedures", stated Ascension's Vice President Jack Scully. "We are pleased to support Ultrasonix's vision of high quality, affordable ultrasound platforms for freehand biopsy and image fusion in numerous specialties."

Ultrasonix is a developer and manufacturer of highly accessible diagnostic ultrasound imaging systems. The company's unique OpenSONIX ultrasound technology provides superior image quality, ease of use, and clinical flexibility for adapting to the needs of multiple specialties.

Esaote, headquartered in Genoa, Italy, is one of the first developers of fusion imaging - the combination of real-time ultrasound with pre-acquired second images (e.g.: CT, MRI, PET) for improved procedural vision. Its Virtual Navigator combines the advantages of real-time ultrasound imaging with high-resolution CT/MR image scans. By "fusing" real-time ultrasound images with previously acquired images, Virtual Navigator overcomes physiological and physical limitations that usually restrict the effectiveness of ultrasound scanning. In the process, it provides physicians with greater confidence in assessing form and structure in ultrasound images.

Virtual Navigator includes an Ascension magnetic sensor on a probe to fuse the best features of ultrasound and CT/MR images into highly correlated views. Esaote believes the merger of real-time ultrasound with wide field-of-view, high-resolution pre-acquired images will significantly advance procedural vision and improve diagnostics. According to Esaote's Claudia Valle, the combination offers "new confidence in assessing morphology in ultrasound images, especially in difficult-to-scan patients". Its approach to fusion is designed to provide physicians with immediate visualization data at a low cost while avoiding the dangers of ionizing radiation.

Surgical specialists often use intra-operative or procedural x-rays to visualize anatomy, position instruments, and find pathology. The inherent danger of using fluoroscopy for real-time imaging is recognized as a health hazard not just to patients but also to clinicians. A new generation of non-radiating navigation and localization devices, lead by magnetic sensors from Ascension Technology, is currently emerging as low-cost and efficient alternatives.

Claudia Valle, Ultrasound Strategic Marketing Manager, noted that Esaote's choice of Ascension as a long-term partner is due to the high functionality of its magnetic trackers for medical applications. "The trackers give us high accuracy, low sensitivity to magnetic field distortions, ease of use, as well as a wide range of miniaturized sensor dimensions to best fit our ultrasound transducers."

Claudia Valle further stated: "Virtual Navigator itself has been designed thanks to Ascension's tracker technology. Esaote's continued R&D will follow Ascension's technological improvements to provide more accurate and safer devices. Our ongoing goal is to always improve diagnostic confidence and patient care."

Jack Scully, Ascension's Vice President of New Business Development, stated: "Esaote was one of the first companies to clearly see the clinical benefits of sensor-driven ultrasound procedures. We look forward to making additional technological innovations based, in part, on Esaote's clinical insights."

Esaote is one of the top ten biomedical companies in the world. It is well established in Europe as an ultrasound manufacturer and internationally acknowledged to be the world expert in dedicated MRI. The Esaote Group is also one of the main players in the sector of Information Technology for health care.

Other new offerings in which Ascension Technology is involved are manufactured by CIVCO, GE Healthcare, Sentinelle Medical and Paritic.

GE Healthcare has recently released its ultrasound system, LOGIQ E9, with a module enabling fusion of real-time and pre-acquired imaging modalities. Fusion includes an Ascension driveBAY electronics unit, which conveniently fits inside the system's PC chassis, a mid-range transmitter, and 8 mm sensors for attachment to probes. The sensors instantly localize the position and orientation of the scanhead as it sweeps across a region of interest. Tracking allows clinicians to view three-dimensional images of scanned organs and make accurate volumetric measurements, as well as fuse ultrasound with CT/MR and PET images for improved procedural vision.

Ascension's DC magnetic sensors enable real-time tracking of the LOGIQ E9's scanhead for volumetric measurement and fusion of pre-acquired and real-time imaging planes. The tracking allows clinicians to view clear, crisp three-dimensional images of anatomical data. Tracking electronics reside in the E9's base station and sensors snap onto the ultrasound scanhead for 3D localization.

CIVCO has launched eTRAX, its revolutionary real-time biopsy needle tip navigation system. It gives physicians a dynamic and accurate toolset for tracking the tip of a needle during image-guided procedures. eTRAX is a two-part coaxial assembly consisting of a reusable, non-sterile 0.9 mm Ascension sensor and a disposable, sterile needle with a trocar sheath. When fully assembled, the sensor is positioned in the enclosed tip of the needle. A sterile CIV-Flex cover ensures sterility once the needle handle locks together. eTRAX is designed to be compatible with ultrasound systems from all the leading equipment manufacturers. Clinical advantages over other technologies include increased confidence in targeting difficult-to-access lesions, improved work flow, and increased patient safety. eTRAX received FDA 510(k) clearance on November 13, 2009.

Sentinelle Medical has introduced its new Navigation system for combining ultrasound and MR imaging in real time. Navigation enhances ultrasound imaging by showing corresponding MRI data reformatted in real-time. Navigation's Interactive Targeting module guides an operator's ultrasound probe, tracked with an Ascension sensor, to any target that can be seen in the MRI data set. This feature is especially useful for locating masses that are clearly seen in MRI, but difficult to locate using ultrasound alone.

Paritic or Parity Computernet Inc. makes imaging processing software for ablation treatment of liver, lung, and kidney cancers. It creates 3D models, based on CT/MR images that segment tumours from healthy tissue. Paritic's virtual surgery and planning softwares allow surgeons to practise resection on virtual 3D models. Its navigation system uses Ascension sensors to track the movements of medical instruments used in the simulation session. During a cancer ablation operation, the navigation system tracks the surgical instruments/needle's movement in real-time within the patient's 3D image model. According to Paritic, this protocol allows a physician to precisely locate a lesion, minimize injury, and improve the accuracy and safety of surgery.

Ascension has released the world's smallest six degrees-of-freedom magnetic sensor - 0.9mm in diameter, weighing less than one-tenth of a gram. It can be conveniently embedded in a 19-gauge needle. Smaller models are in development for navigating even finer needle gauges to internal targets.

Ascension Technology Corporation is a universally acknowledged expert in "GPS-like" locators for the human body, a key component in image-guided interventions. The company provides microminiaturized sensors that work with a new radio translucent transmitter. This magnetic field generator supports sensor tracking in interventional radiology procedures without affecting the quality of x-ray fluoroscopic images. For more information you can visit the Ascension website. On the home page, you can click on the "Biopsy Needle Guidance" video. It shows how Ascension sensors - integrated with various ultrasound machines, needle toolsets, and visualization softwares - are revolutionizing percutaneous biopsy procedures. More company news is available in the VMW August 2009 article trakSTAR Wide-Range tracks up to 16 miniaturized sensors over 2 meter range.

Source: Ascension Technology

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