An important characteristic of an ageing population is the steep increase in the incidence of diabetes, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and neurological diseases. Many of us will develop multiple clinical conditions, either chronic or acute. Studies on the prevalence of comorbidity show that at age 70, occurrence of three or four conditions is common. Treatment of many of these chronic conditions involves placement of implants or the use of body-worn treatment-delivery devices. For numerous medical conditions, magnetic resonance imaging (or MRI, a way of obtaining detailed images of organs and tissues throughout the body without the need for X-rays or so-called ‘ionizing’ radiation) is required for accurate diagnosis and treatment monitoring.
As patients develop multiple medical conditions, many of those needing an MRI scan will have one or more implants. Crucially, current medical practice excludes patients with one or more ‘standard’ active implantable medical devices (AIMDs) from access to MRI treatment, because MRI scanners need to use (electro-) magnetic fields which are far stronger than those encountered in everyday life. This causes serious health inequalities for a rapidly growing group of patients. Recent developments allow the scanning of patients with a single, so-called state-of-the-art implant, but under strict and limiting conditions. Unfortunately, these restrictions significantly increase the typical examination time.
DISPERSE’s key objective was to develop the electronic means of reducing examination times of patients with multiple implants by a factor of three, while also improving scanning accuracy compared to the current state-of-the-art, all in a clinical hospital setting.
DISPERSE has achieved its main objective by developing advanced electronics for spatially distributed sensor and transducer arrays. Methodologies for multi-implant testing have also been developed.
These sensing networks also have a large application potential in other markets, notably in smart cities and space communications. In particular, DISPERSE demonstrated potential applications in radio telescopes and the acoustic surveillance of public space.
As well as advances in the MRI systems themselves, DISPERSE has developed complementary innovative materials and demonstrators for active implantable medical devices (AIMDs) which cause less interference with the MRI image and pose less constraint on the maximum MRI fields. It has also developed miniaturised RF signal conversion and transmission electronics, including power transmission, in order to triple or quadruple the number of RF sensors covering the anatomy of patients. With appropriate image processing this has reduced MRI acquisition times and improved accuracy. Methodologies for multi-implant testing have also been developed.
Next to innovative building blocks for AIMDs and MRI, an acoustic observation system has been developed which can be used to detect if a patient being scanned is stressed, adding essential safety monitoring to the scanning process. Acoustic observation also has a huge potential in the cross-functional domains of smart cities, smart homes and automotive. The implementation of an array of sound cameras enable major breakthroughs in the emerging market of audio monitoring and analysis for smart home (home care) and smart city applications, where there will be greater emphasis on the audio capabilities of video surveillance systems.
Synergy has been found also in the space domain were innovative radio telescope arrays have identical needs for advancement in components for signal conversion and transmission. The new communication module developed in DISPERSE is being used to build future satellite-based space telescopes, with much more efficient communication capabilities. It is expected that eventually about 100,000 antennas will be used in the space telescope, each of which will be equipped with the communication module that has been developed in the DISPERSE project.
In the new Penta Project DISPERSE video, Project Leader Mark Van Helvoort (Philips), Senior MR Physicist Ron Peeters (University Hospital Leuven) and Innovation Manager Barbara Weyn (University Hospital Leuven) discuss the background, challenges faced and the outcomes and impact of the project.
To watch the full video on the DISPERSE project and learn more about how Penta helps collaborative partners to create our digital future, please click here.