The increasing number of applications in healthcare such as Renal Denervation and Sonography along with the miniaturization of these devices particularly for minimally invasive procedures is predicted to drive the market for these sensors in the coming years. Other drivers are the non-invasive procedures performed by HIFU or High Intensity Focused Ultrasound devices which may not even require contact of the device. Acceptance in medical community particularly with regards to safety and efficacy of ultrasound is expected to be a significant driver for these sensors in the coming years.
Ultrasound has been an integral part of healthcare since its first use in 1942 when Doctor Karl Theodore Dussik of Austria published the first paper on medical ultrasonics on his research. In Sweden Inge Edler and Carl Hellmuth Hertz used ultrasound in cardiology. Ultrasound sensors are used for a variety of medical devices and healthcare. The use of medical ultrasound can be broadly classified into diagnostic ultrasound where high frequency waved penetrate the skin and are received back and converted by the transducer or sensor into an image with the help of an interface device. The other facet is the therapeutic ultrasound sensors which are used to damage tissue through a process called ablation. This ablation is used to removal of tumors, cauterization and other procedures.
The sensor consists of a core piezoelectric crystal placed inside the device. These crystals have the property of changing size when a current passes through them. Thus when an alternate current is passes through them, they increase and decrease in size at a very high rate of speed. This “oscillation” creates vibrations at a high frequency consequently emitting sound waves beyond the hearing range of most animals. Another property of these crystals is that the vibrations or severe change in size in turn create voltage which is converted by computer software to render images.
There are over 20 classes of crystals which are considered piezoelectric and are used for a variety of purposes. Therapeutic ultrasonic sensors are used in catheter based ablation or in treatment of gall stones, kidney stones and uterine fibroids. These devices are also used for numerous cosmetological applications such as acne removal, treating varicose veins and others such as disinfection and cleaning of equipment.
Some of the major companies producing these sensors make them for a variety of medical applications and range from sizes such as hand-held sensors to large ultrasound beds used for therapeutic purposes. Some of the major companies making ultrasound sensors are Migatron Corp, Rockwell Automation, Maxbotix, Pepperl+Fuchs, Omron, Blatek Inc, Vermon, Philips, GE, Acuson, Esaote, among many others.
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