Ultrasound in Six Decades: From Bats and Submarines to the Technology That Can See With Sound

How bats led to the invention of ultrasound and more from six decades of the tech that can see with soundGIF_3

In the late 1700s, Italian priest and scientist Lazaaro Spallanzani discovered that blindfolded bats could find their way around and catch flies. Yet, when he took off the blindfolds and covered the bats’ ears, they were hopeless. This finding, also called echolocation, would eventually lead scientists to the invention of ultrasound. Fast-forward about 150 years to World War I: The Royal Navy used an early, man-made version of ultrasound to find and to sink German submarines in the Atlantic. Before ultrasound, doctors did not always have a safe and reliable way to see what was happening inside the womb during pregnancy. The location of the placenta – a critically important health indicator for mother and child – was difficult to pin down, leading doctors to prescribe weeks of bedrest to otherwise healthy mothers. Today, clinicians use the technology to see the human body in amazing detail – from the beating heart in 4D (three spatial dimensions plus time) to a smile in utero.
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This year, GE Healthcare celebrates its 15-year anniversary of the Kretztechnik acquisition, which introduced the Voluson™ ultrasound line impacting more than 230 million lives annually; that’s five lives every second, sometimes two at a time.