iFIND (intelligent Fetal Imaging and Diagnosis) is an exciting multi-disciplinary project which proposes to improve antenatal ultrasound scanning. We propose to do this by developing new computer guided ultrasound technologies that will allow screening of fetal abnormalities in an automated and uniform fashion.
Ultrasound passes sound waves into the body to create pictures from their reflections and is commonly used to see if babies in the womb are healthy. Although every pregnant mother in the country has a scan at around 20 weeks, some babies who have problems are not picked up on these ultrasound scans. This is because scanning requires significant expertise which is difficult to have present in every hospital. We are proposing new technologies that allow scanning to be carried out not just with one probe (the device which takes the ultrasound picture) but up to four probes that can be used at the same time, and which move automatically to the right place to get the best pictures. This will mean we get a detailed picture of the whole baby which can then be analysed in an automatic way using advanced computer technologies to ensure we do not miss babies with potential problems. This should mean a high quality scanning service across the country which is not dependent on local expertise, and fewer babies who have major problems will be missed.
The project has been funded through an Innovative Engineering for Health Award of £10 million from the Wellcome Trust and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The Award has been granted to Kings College London, along with colleagues at St Thomas’ Hospital, Imperial College London, the University of Firenze (Florence, Italy), the Hospital for Sick Children (Toronto, Canada) and Phillips Healthcare. We will use state of the art techniques in ultrasound, MRI, robotics and computing to create a multi-probe system for automated ultrasound imaging.