Octoson ultrasound scanner for images of body organs
One product of Australian research and manufacturing in the 1970s led to a revolution in pre-natal care: most pregnant women in Australia and other wealthy countries now have at least one ultrasound scan to check on the development of the foetus. This can give expectant parents peace of mind, help them prepare to care for a child with physical problems, or raise the option of abortion.
While researching the use of ultrasound (high-pitched sound) to 'see' inside the human body, CSIRO's Ultrasonic Research Centre made a technical breakthrough called 'grey scale imaging'. This was a way of picking fine differences in ultrasound echoes bouncing off soft tissue in the human body and converting them into TV pictures.
The Ausonics company commercialised this technology in 1976 in the UI Octoson scanner. The patient lies on a water bed covered with a flexible membrane. Ultrasonic waves from eight speakers are beamed through the water and reflect off the part of the patient's body in contact with the membrane, and off internal organs. The echoes are interpreted as a picture on a TV screen. The Octoson was the first medical instrument to provide good images of internal organs, or of a foetus inside the uterus, without exposure to damaging X-rays.
Over 250 of the expensive scanners were sold worldwide. They were used for viewing foetuses and diagnosing medical problems in the breast, abdomen, penis and testes.
In the mid 1980?s the water path equipment was overtaken by developments in contact, real time scanners, but ultrasound remained an important diagnostic technique.
Who Did It?
Ausonics Pty Ltd : design, manufacture
Ultrasonics Institute : R&D, design
George Kossoff : researcher
Dave Carpenter : project leader
Australian made: success stories in Australian manufacturing
Institution of Production Engineers, Parkville, 1987, p 129.
of ultrasound developments in obstetrics and gynaecology
by George Kossoff, Breast News: Newsletter of the NHMRC National Breast Cancer
Centre,Vol. 6, No. 1, Spring 2000
How ultrasound works
Questions & Activities
Powerhouse Museum Objects
Ultrasound medical imaging equipment