Almost every doctor's surgery has an ultrasound scanner. Medical ultrasonography allows us to see an unborn child in its mother's womb and helps to detect gall stones or identify tumor-like lumps.
It plays a particularly important role in the early detection of breast cancer. Three-dimensional sonography can provide especially informative images, for instance allowing the structure of tumors, their growth pattern and their blood supply to be clearly distinguished from healthy tissue. Although 3-D technology has been available since the 1990s, it remains prohibitively expensive. Physicians and clinics wishing to upgrade from 2-D to 3-D technology usually have to invest around 50,000 euros in new equipment.
In collaboration with the software company MedCom, researchers from the Fraunhofer Technology Development Group TEG and the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT have succeeded in producing a considerably less expensive solution for physicians: The scientists have developed a system that enables conventional 2-D ultrasound scanners to be upgraded to provide 3-D images for as little as 400 euros. The question is, how?