A growing number of medical centers are offering their pediatric patients a relatively new, radiation-free imaging tool known as “contrast-enhanced ultrasound” (CEUS).
“The benefits of CEUS for imaging children are being quickly recognized,” according to Dr. Kassa Darge, chair of the Department of Radiology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and Founder of the Center of Pediatric Contrast Ultrasound (CPCU) at CHOP. Dr. Darge also is a member of the board of directors of the International Contrast Ultrasound Society (ICUS).
The growth of pediatric CEUS centers in the US has been dramatic, according to Dr. Darge. He said there were only three pediatric CEUS centers in the US in 2016, and there are more than 40 today.
CEUS is particularly beneficial for children because it avoids exposing them to ionizing radiation, which cumulatively builds in the body and can increase a patient’s lifetime risk of cancer.
“CEUS can offer reliable diagnostic information that is often equivalent or superior to more expensive, radiation-based imaging tools, it rarely requires sedation, and since ultrasound equipment is portable the CEUS scan can be administered at bedside with parents nearby,” Dr. Darge added.
CEUS uses liquid suspensions of biocompatible microbubbles that are injected into a patient’s arm vein during an ultrasound scan. The microbubbles reflect ultrasound waves as they flow through the body’s microvasculature with red blood cells, and are expelled from the body within minutes.
Originally approved by the FDA for use in imaging the heart, ultra sound contrast agents were more recently approved for use in imaging the liver and for imaging children. In addition, doctors in the US are increasingly using ultrasound contrast agents “off label” to image other organ systems, including the kidney, bowel and carotid arteries.
Outside the US, CEUS has been widely and routinely used for many years with great success and for various applications, according to Dr. Stephanie Wilson, a professor of radiology at the University of Calgary and co-president of ICUS.
As awareness of the benefits of CEUS have become recognized, so has the need and demand for education and training in its use. The International Contrast Ultrasound Society (ICUS) offers free CME courses throughout the year for ultrasound professionals, including physicians, sonographers, nurses and industry applications specialists. In addition, CHOP offers monthly workshops that feature hands-on training experiences for small groups of clinicians.