RT Image August 3, 2009 : Page 31

in response to acoustic waves. The vibration causes the light to be modulated as it is reflected off the membrane, and these very minute changes are transmitted back to a signal processor through a second optic fiber. This core technology, the basis for a complete portfolio of Optoacoustics microphones, produces extremely clear signals with low self-noise. IMROC optical microphones and headphones use advanced algorithms that can reduce noise as well as enhance much of the original speech signal. Optoacoustics began working on IMROC prototypes in 2004 with the assistance of Robert Lederman, MD, a senior investigator with NIH’s National Health Lung and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Md., and a pioneer in cardiovascular interventional MRI, who detailed specifications required by end users. “We can hear and communicate with each other on a single open microphone as opposed to a ‘push-to-talk’ walkie-talkie style device, which is no good if there are a lot of people who want to talk at the same time,” he says. “It’s also comfortable enough to use for several hours. There’s no other good solution I’m aware of that works this well. Our predecessor system, apparently no longer available, was much inferior. They required supplemental earplugs that were uncomfortable after a while or didn’t suppress the noise entering through bone conduction. We’re pleased and surprised at how well this works.” The effects are even more dramatic in research. At the University of Utah School of Medicine, IMROC is facilitating development of new, lifesaving technology. There, an experimental iMRI-based atrial fibrillation ablation therapy delivers radio waves via catheter into the heart to cure arrhythmias. Treatment requires pinpoint accuracy inside of a beating, shifting object. “We can now carry out procedures we simply couldn’t do before. Without an intercom system, we could only use hand signals or shouting,” says Rob MacLeod, PhD, an electrophysiologist and professor of biomedical engineering overseeing several of these experiments. “Without real-time communication, there’s no way for the interventionalist to change the MRI settings fast enough to track the heart. The challenge is unique to cardiology, because – unlike the brain, which is static – the heart is a moving target. Without the ability to adjust the scanner in realtime, there are only brief moments to move when the catheter, heart, and MRI slice were all lined up. In between, the physician is blind, and there is a real risk of puncturing the heart wall. IMROC has been nothing short of a complete transformation of how we did things.” IMROC is in the final stages of FDA approval. Optoacoustics will formally introduce the system at the Radiology Society of North America (RSNA) winter convention in Chicago. In the future, the company is planning to sell smaller versions of the IMROC (i.e., two channels instead of six), and is developing even more dramatic advances in adaptive noise reduction. “Everyone I know who has tried to do interventional MR without the communication system and then gets it is thrilled,” says Lorenz. “It just makes the whole environment more pleasant, easier, and the procedures more efficient. I don’t think anyone would return to doing iMRI procedures without such a communication system after having used one.” For more information, go to www.optoacoustics.com. | Susan Karlin is an award-winning science and technology journalist based in Los Angeles, who has contributed to Newsweek, Forbes, and NPR, among others. Questions and comments can be directed to editorial@rt-image.com. SimpleSolution to advance your career! Cross Training Courses NEW - Musculoskeletal Ultrasound Course NEW - Stereotactic Breast Biopsy Course Mammography Breast Ultrasound Medical Dosimetry Bone Densitometry Radiology Management Call 800-765-6864 or along with these MTMI Course favorites • • • • • • • • • CT MRI PACS CR/DR go to www.mtmi.net and advance YOUR career |www.rt-image.com| August 3, 2009 |31|