Doctors have long relied on various methods to assess the respiratory system, from auscultation with traditional stethoscopes to more advanced imaging techniques. However, the ability to detect abnormalities accurately and efficiently remains a challenge, particularly when it comes to vocalization-induced vibrations. Now, a groundbreaking study by French researchers, published in AIP Advances by AIP Publishing, unveils a promising solution using ultrasound technology.

The conventional approach to respiratory assessment often involves subjective interpretation and is limited by the examiner’s expertise and the quality of the examination. While multipoint electronic stethoscopes have improved the detection of abnormalities in normal breathing, there remains a gap in technology capable of characterizing surface vibrations generated by vocalizations.

A team of French researchers has stepped into this gap with a remarkable innovation. In their study, they demonstrated the effectiveness of ultrasound technology in detecting low-amplitude movements produced by vocalizations at the surface of the chest. This pioneering approach opens new avenues for precise and objective respiratory assessment.

At the heart of this innovation is the «airborne ultrasound surface motion camera» (AUSMC), a cutting-edge imaging technology that enables the observation of surface vibrations due to respiratory and cardiac activities. Unlike conventional ultrasound Doppler imaging, AUSMC does not require a probe to be applied to the skin, offering a non-invasive and accessible method for detecting abnormalities.

Lead author Mathieu Couade explains, «AUSMC is a new imaging technology that allows the observation of the human thorax surface vibrations at high frame rates of typically 1,000 images per second.» This technology not only detects respiratory and cardiac activities but also captures vocalization-induced vibrations, providing clinicians with a comprehensive understanding of the respiratory system’s dynamics.

In their study, researchers tested the AUSMC on 77 healthy volunteers, mapping surface vibrations caused by natural vocalizations to reproduce the «vocal fremitus» typically analyzed during thoracic examinations. Encouragingly, they found that surface vibrations induced by vocalizations were detectable in all subjects, highlighting the potential of AUSMC in clinical practice.

This innovative use of ultrasound technology represents a significant leap forward in respiratory diagnostics, offering clinicians a precise and objective method for identifying potential disease-related abnormalities. With further research and development, AUSMC holds the promise of revolutionizing respiratory assessment, leading to earlier detection, more accurate diagnosis, and improved patient outcomes.

Article written by Rachel Klemovitch