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EchoSpine: Guiding Physicians through Imaging

Team Members:
  • Nisu Patel
  • Ernest Scalabrin
  • Karun Kannan
  • Kush Gupta
  • Larissa Chan
  • Mateo Paredes
  • Melissa Lin
  • Shayan Roychoudhury
  • Suraj Shah
  • Abhay Moghekar, MBBS
  • Emad Boctor, PhD
  • Nicholas Durr, PhD
  • Andrew Malinow, MD
  • Anshuman Gupta, MSE
  • Arun Venkatesan, MD, PhD
  • Katarzyna Macura, MD, PhD
  • Rodney Omron, MD, MPH


To help physicians access structures and spaces deep in the body, we present EchoSpine, an ultrasound imaging device that delivers high resolution images inside the body at any depth. Deep needle placements are ubiquitous in the clinic and operating room. These types of procedures are used to make diagnoses, deliver therapies, and administer anesthesia for a variety of diseases and disorders. Examples include lumbar punctures, neuraxial anesthesia, central line placements, and needle biopsies.

Physicians often have difficulty correctly placing needles to access deep structures. First, the anatomical targets are typically very small and offer a tiny window for a successful procedure. For example, in lumbar punctures, the subarachnoid space is only 1-3 mm wide. Because the target is located deep in the body, typically 7-14 cm, accurate placement is incredibly difficult given the lack of visual feedback. Second, the path to the target is fraught with obstacles, including blood vessels, bone, and nerve bundles. Hitting these obstacles often results in increased complication rates and procedural failure. In addition to painful and dangerous complications, the result of puncturing a blood vessel or failing to access the subarachnoid space is a dangerous delay of diagnosis of acute central nervous system pathologies. Dangerous complications and delays are also demonstrated in many other procedures involving deep needle placements.

Therefore, there is a need for an improved means to access deep anatomical structures that reduces the number of attempts and the rate of iatrogenic complications resulting from blind access. EchoSpine is an ultrasound-imaging device that incorporates a PZT crystal at the tip of the needle. Using novel signal processing, EchoSpine generates an image of the surrounding tissue when the physician moves the needle. By visualizing the location of the needle tip with respect to obstacles and targets, physicians can dynamically guide the needle to avoid obstacles and reach the intended target.

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