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Tuesday, 13 August, 2002, 07:41 GMT 08:41 UK
X-ray vision for doctors
The Sonic Flashlight on show
The device is light and portable
Scientists have been showing off a handheld device that makes the human body seem translucent right in front of your eyes.

The Sonic Flashlight developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in the US combines various technologies to effectively gives the user X-ray vision.

The device looks like a small windowpane attached to a ray gun which produces a live ultrasound scan when placed against a patient's body.

Researchers say the device could be used to make many surgical and diagnostic procedures such as brain surgery much safer.

Surgical insight

Doctors already use ultrasound devices to guide them in performing surgery. But it can be tricky because the doctor has to look away from the patient and into a monitor.

Sonic Flashlight device
Device combines various technologies
In any case, most of the equipment is expensive and cumbersome.

"When you are guiding procedures, like sticking needles into people, you don't want to be looking away from your work area," researcher Damion Shelton told the BBC programme Go Digital.

"Surgeons and radiologists get very good at hand to eye coordination but we prefer not to have to look away."

The new device would make such an operation much easier as a doctor would be able to look right at their hands as they work.

Simple to use

The Sonic Flashlight positions an ultrasound scanner and an ultrasound monitor on opposite sides of a see-through mirror.


Anybody can pick it up and understand intuitively what they are looking at

Damion Shelton, Carnegie Mellon University
As you look through the mirror at a patient, the monitor projects the ultrasound image onto the mirror.

The image lines up with the part of the body being viewed.

"We did not invent any of the individual pieces, we invented the combination," said Mr Shelton.

"Because of the way the display, the mirror and the probe are aligned, you get the perspective of looking at a slice of the person's body, regardless of where you are standing."

Mr Shelton believes it the simplicity of the device should appeal to medical experts.

"This does not require any training. Anybody can pick it up and understand intuitively what they are looking at."

The researchers are now planning to conduct clinical trials of the device and look into other uses for it.

The Sonic Flashlight was recently showcased at the world's leading computer graphics conference, Siggraph, in the US.

See also:

31 Jul 02 | Health
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09 Dec 01 | Health
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