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Publication numberUS20040186380 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/477,351
PCT numberPCT/DK2002/000320
Publication dateSep 23, 2004
Filing dateMay 16, 2002
Priority dateMay 19, 2001
Also published asDE60210956D1, DE60210956T2, EP1395171A2, EP1395171B1, US8398553, US20070167768, US20130178742, WO2002094089A2, WO2002094089A3
Publication number10477351, 477351, PCT/2002/320, PCT/DK/2/000320, PCT/DK/2/00320, PCT/DK/2002/000320, PCT/DK/2002/00320, PCT/DK2/000320, PCT/DK2/00320, PCT/DK2000320, PCT/DK2002/000320, PCT/DK2002/00320, PCT/DK2002000320, PCT/DK200200320, PCT/DK200320, US 2004/0186380 A1, US 2004/186380 A1, US 20040186380 A1, US 20040186380A1, US 2004186380 A1, US 2004186380A1, US-A1-20040186380, US-A1-2004186380, US2004/0186380A1, US2004/186380A1, US20040186380 A1, US20040186380A1, US2004186380 A1, US2004186380A1
InventorsNiels Kristiansen
Original AssigneeKristiansen Niels Kristian
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Method and an apparatus for recording bladder volume
US 20040186380 A1
Abstract
The invention relates to a method and an apparatus for recording volume in humans or animals. The method is non-invasive, and two or more phased-array ultrasound transducers are used for the recording of the volume of the bladder, which, in a bell or a waistband of a pair of trousers, are positioned on the same circle, whose centre is disposed above the bladder whose volume is to be determined. The transducers are oriented in such a manner relative to the bladder to be measured that the ultrasound signals penetrate the surface of the bladder to some extent perpendicularly to it, thereby optimizing the signal/noise ratio. The apparatus, which forms part of the invention, contains no mechanically movable parts and is therefore sturdy, has a low noise level and may easily be powered by small batteries. The apparatus has a low weight and volume and may be used for long term monitoring of the volume of the bladder of ambulatory or sleeping individuals without appreciable discomfort. The apparatus may be used for giving an alarm when the recorded volume of a bladder exceeds a programmable maximum, which may e.g. be of benefit to individuals who suffer from urinary nocturnal incontinence.
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Claims(12)
1. A method of recording the bladder volume in humans or animals, characterized in that the recording takes place on the basis of analysis of signals from two or more ultrasound transducers which are arranged in a portable fixture, such as a belt or a waistband of a pair of trousers, which is attached to the individual being measured, and in that each transducer, by signal sweep, images a plane in the body of the individual being measured, which in one dimension, runs radially from each individual transducer to the centre of a circle on which all the transducers are positioned.
2. A method of recording the bladder volume according to claim 1, characterized in that the transducers used re fixed mechanically as phased-array units.
3. A method of recording the bladder volume according to claim 1 or 2, characterized in that a central line passing through the centre of the circle perpendicularly to the circle face will extend through the mass centre of the bladder in the individual being measured.
4. A method of recording the bladder volume according to claim 3, characterized in that the transducers are positioned such that lines of sight drawn perpendicularly out from the centre of the measuring face for each transducer will extend through the same point on the central line of the circle on which the transducers are positioned, in a direction toward the bladder which is to be measured.
5. A method of recording the bladder volume according to one or more of claims 1-4, characterized in that the signals from the ultrasound transducers are processed in an electronic circuit which is integrated in the fixture, and which calculates the volume of the bladder and is capable of emitting a signal if the volume exceeds a preselected maximum.
6. An apparatus for recording the bladder volume in humans or animals, characterized in that the apparatus contains two or more mechanically fixed ultrasound transducers of the phased-array type, and in that each transducer, by signal sweep, images a plane in the body of the individual being measured, which, in one dimension, is described by a line extending through the transducer and the central line extending through the centre of a circle line on which the transducer is positioned, said transducers being arranged in a portable fixture, such as a belt or a waistband of a pair of trousers, which may be attached to the individual being measured, as well as a calculation unit which is capable of calculating the volume of the bladder on the basis of the signals from the ultrasound transducers.
7. An apparatus for recording the bladder volume according to claim 6, characterized in that two transducers are positioned on a common circle line with a spacing of 90 degrees.
8. An apparatus for recording the bladder volume according to claim 6, characterized in that three or more transducers are positioned equidistantly on a common circle line.
9. An apparatus for recording the bladder volume according to claim 6, 7 or 8, characterized in that the transducers are positioned on a common circle line in such a manner that lines of sight pointing perpendicularly out from the centre of the active surface of each transducer in a direction toward the object to be measured, will extend through the same point on the central line extending through the centre of the circle on which all the transducers are positioned.
10. An apparatus for recording the bladder volume according to one or more of claims 6-9, characterized in that the fixture has integrated therein electronic circuits which are used for controlling the transducers as well as processing the signals from the transducers, which electronic circuits may be connected to an input medium, such as a keyboard, and an output medium, such as a sound generator or vibrator.
11. An apparatus for recording the bladder volume according to one or more of claims 6-10, characterized in that the belt has integrated therein electronic circuits which are capable of wirelessly communicating with external units, such as computers or mobile telephones.
12. An apparatus for recording the bladder volume according to one or more of claims 6-11, characterized in that the apparatus is powered from batteries which are integrated in the fixture, and which may be rechargeable.
Description

[0001] The invention relates to a method of recording the bladder volume in humans or animals.

[0002] The invention moreover relates to an apparatus for recording the bladder volume in humans or animals.

[0003] The techniques used till now for determining the volume of the bladder in humans or animals comprise the generally known image diagnostic techniques based on e.g. magnet resonance (MR), X-ray, nuclear medicine or ultrasound.

[0004] However, it is characteristic of these techniques that they call for the use of heavy and large equipment which normally requires that the patient is confined to bed during the measurement.

[0005] Ultrasound equipment is available which can measure the volume of the bladder in ambulatory patients. This equipment is based on the use of a single ultrasound transducer, which rotates the transducer over the patient's bladder mechanically by means of a gear system driven by an electric motor, such that the entire bladder is scanned, and then, via signal processing in a computer, a three-dimensional (3D) reconstruction of the surface of the bladder and thereby also the volume of the bladder may be created.

[0006] The ultrasound measuring equipment driven by an electric motor is portable in the sense that the equipment is fixed in a belt which is tightened around the patient on whom measurements are to be performed. The system, however, is relatively large and heavy because of the mechanical components used for the rotation of the ultrasound transducer and therefore not comfortable for the patients to wear.

[0007] Also, the bulky structure with the complicated, mechanical movements means that the apparatus will inevitably generate mechanical noise which may also be unpleasant to the patient.

[0008] The mechanically complicated structure will moreover be vulnerable to external impacts, which may occur if the unit is e.g. dropped. The complicated structure will also be expensive to manufacture and require relatively great current maintenance costs.

[0009] The operation by an electric motor will require considerable electrical power, which means that batteries for the energy supply must be large and heavy, which in turn makes it difficult and inconvenient to use the apparatus in practice.

[0010] Thus, it is a problem of the known techniques that they cannot be used in practice for long term monitoring of ambulatory patients, which is a great clinical need, e.g. in connection with the evaluation of the effect of recently developed medicine.

[0011] Both in a research and a clinical connection there is a great need for long term monitoring of the bladder volume in patients where it is attempted to diagnose various bladder and urinary tract disorders.

[0012] Another great need for long term monitoring of the volume of the bladder with a user-friendly easily portable apparatus is found in patients who suffer from involuntary nocturnal incontinence.

[0013] If these individuals could be equipped with a small, simple and non-hampering measuring device which could measure the volume of the bladder continuously and emit a signal when the bladder reached a preselected maximum volume, the individuals would have an alarm that woke them before the urinary incontinence was initiated, so that the individuals could urinate in time and thereby avoid the inconvenience of the otherwise occurring urinary incontinence.

[0014] Urinary nocturnal incontinence is a great problem for up to 15% of all children aged 3-10 years.

[0015] It is an object of the present invention to enable continuous measurement of the volume of the bladder in humans or animals who or which move about free and easy or are at sleep.

[0016] The object of the invention is achieved by a method of the type defined in the introductory portion of claim 1, which is characterized in that the recording takes place on the basis of analysis of signals from two or more ultrasound transducers which are arranged in a portable fixture, such as a belt or a waistband of a pair of trousers, which is attached to the individual being measured, and in that each transducer, by signal sweep, images a plane in the body of the individual being measured, which in one dimension, runs radially from each individual transducer to the centre of a circle on which all the transducers are positioned.

[0017] Expediently, as stated in claim 2, the transducers used are fixed mechanically as phased-array units.

[0018] Thus, use of a phased-array ultrasound transducer is involved, which is characteristic in that it does not contain mechanically moveable components, but are composed of several ultrasound units, typically of piezoelectric crystals, arranged in parallel. Thus, without mechanically movable parts, a phased-array ultrasound transducer may perform scanning in a plane, in the longitudinal direction, in which the piezoelectric crystals are arranged, by individual excitation of the individual crystals with a time delay between each excitation. The scanning is performed between two extreme angles which are determined by the time delay between the excitations of the individual crystals.

[0019] The mechanically fixed transducers are arranged in the portable fixture as defined more fully in claims 3-4. In other words, in such a manner that the scanning planes of the transducers, which are the region in which the ultrasound signals are emitted and detected after reflection from transitions between tissues of different density, cover the bladder of the individual.

[0020] When, as stated in claim 5, the signals from the ultrasound transducers are processed in an electronic circuit which is integrated in the fixture, and which calculates the volume of the bladder and is capable of emitting a signal if the volume exceeds a preselected maximum, it is advantageously ensured that it is possible to preselect a maximum volume for the bladder which, if exceeded, triggers an alarm.

[0021] As mentioned, the invention also relates to an apparatus.

[0022] This apparatus is characterized in that the apparatus contains two or more mechanically fixed ultrasound transducers of the phased-array type, and in that each transducer, by signal sweep, images a plane in the body of the individual being measured, which, in one dimension, is described by a line extending through the transducer and the central line extending through the centre of a circle line on which the transducer is positioned, said transducers being arranged in a portable fixture, such as a belt or a waistband of a pair of trousers, which may be attached to the individual being measured, as well as a calculation unit which is capable of calculating the volume of the bladder on the basis of the signals from the ultrasound transducers.

[0023] As stated in claim 7, the apparatus may contain two transducers which are positioned on a common circle line with a spacing of 90, whereby the scanning planes for the transducers can cover the entire bladder, allowing subsequent 3D reconstruction of the external shape and volume of the bladder.

[0024] As stated in claim 8, the apparatus may also be provided with three or more phased-array ultrasound transducers which are positioned equidistantly on a common circle line.

[0025] When, as stated in claim 9, the transducers are positioned on a common circle line in such a manner that lines of sight pointing perpendicularly out from the centre of the active surface of each transducer in a direction toward the object to be measured, will extend through the same point on the centre line extending through the centre of the circle on which all the transducers are positioned.

[0026] As stated in claim 10, the fixture of the apparatus has integrated therein electronic circuits which are used for controlling the transducers and for processing the signals from the transducers, which electronic circuits may be connected to an input medium, such as a keyboard, and an output medium, such as a sound generator or vibrator, thereby allowing the recorded signals to be processed. In addition, the electronic circuits may input and output data, if the input and output media are connected thereto. The electronic circuits may thus be used for emitting e.g. an acoustic alarm signal, if the bladder volume exceeds a preselected maximum.

[0027] When, as stated in claim 11, the belt has integrated therein electronic circuits which are capable of wirelessly communicating with external units, such as computers or mobile telephones, the keyboard of the mobile telephone may e.g. be used as an input medium for inputting data, e.g. to describe how large the volume of a bladder must be as a basis for the triggering of an alarm.

[0028] In the example involving communication with a mobile telephone, an alarm signal may of course also be given via the mobile telephone in the form of a call or vibrator activation.

[0029] The invention will now be explained more fully with reference to the drawing, in which

[0030]FIG. 1 shows the torso of an individual with an attached apparatus having a total of seven ultrasound transducers for recording the volume of the bladder,

[0031]FIG. 2 shows an example of the positions of seven transducers for recording the bladder volume,

[0032]FIGS. 3.1, 3.2 show the transducer arrangement of FIG. 2 in an enlarged section illustrating the structure of the individual phased-array ultrasound transducers in detail,

[0033]FIG. 4 shows the scanning planes from two selected transducers from a measuring apparatus that contains seven identical phased-array ultrasound transducers,

[0034]FIG. 5 shows a cross-section of the body of an individual whose bladder volume is measured using phased-array ultrasound transducers. The figure shows the scanning plane in the body of the individual for one transducer.

[0035]FIG. 6 shows a cross-section of the body of an individual whose bladder volume is measured in accordance with the present invention. The figure shows how all the transducers are directed toward the same point in the body of the individual being measured, while

[0036]FIG. 7 shows the position of the transducers in the situation where precisely two transducers are used.

[0037]FIG. 1 shows the torso of an individual 1 who is to have his bladder volume recorded. With this end in view, the individual is provided with a fixture in the form of a belt 2, which may also be integrated in the waistband of the pants. The apparatus 3 for the bladder measurement is arranged in the belt, based on a plurality of identical ultrasound transducers 4 of the phased-array type.

[0038] It is characteristic of the phased-array ultrasound transducers that these can perform a scanning sweep in a plane without mechanical rotation of the transducer, as the transducer is composed of multiple piezoelectric crystals arranged in parallel which are capable of emitting signals in various angles by time delayed, individual excitation in a plane.

[0039] The fixture, in which the apparatus is mounted, is positioned such that the centre of the transducers is present at the mass centre of the bladder.

[0040] An enlarged section of the transducers of FIG. 1 is shown in FIG. 2, where, as will be seen, there is a total of seven identical transducers 4 which are disposed equidistantly on the same circle 5 having a centre 6 which is intended to be positioned at the mass centre of the bladder being measured. When three or more transducers are used, it is optimum in terms of measuring that the transducers are positioned equidistantly on the circle 5. This provides the best imaging of the bladder, as the scanning planes from the individual transducers are distributed as best as possible, thereby achieving the best distribution of input data in a polar system of coordinates. Of course, it is without importance whether the data collection takes place in polar or Cartesian coordinates, it being simple to transform between the two forms of coordinates so that these may be used freely where it is most expedient.

[0041] It is a prerequisite for the measurement of the bladder volume to operate expediently that the scanning planes of the ultrasound transducers are coordinated. FIG. 3.1 shows the positions of seven transducers in a measurement setup, and a section of a transducer 4A of the identical transducers is shown in an enlarged view in FIG. 3.2. The phased-array transducers scan in a plane which extends in the same direction as the one in which the piezoelectric crystals 7 are positioned side by side. In FIG. 3.1, the transducer 4A, a section of which is shown in an enlarged view in FIG. 3.2, will scan in a plane which extends along the line between the transducer 4A and the common centre 6. Thus, it is a prerequisite for the optimum operation of the measurement setup that all the transducers are oriented such that they scan in a plane which follows the radius from the common centre 6 to the central axis of the individual transducers. As mentioned, the scanning planes follow the drawn tracks 7 and propagate in the other dimension into the body of the individual being measured.

[0042] It is shown in FIG. 4 how the scanning planes extend from two arbitrarily selected transducers from a measurement system of seven transducers. The scanning planes of the two transducers are shown in BA and 8B, respectively, and, for each transducer, follow the previously mentioned radius line that extends from the central axis of the individual transducers to the common centre 6.

[0043]FIG. 5 shows a section of the body 1 of the individual where the volume of the bladder 9 is to be recorded. Two transducers 4A and 4B and the scanning lines 10 in the body 1 of the individual, shown for the transducer 4A, are drawn in the figure.

[0044] Tests have shown that the best result of an ultrasound scanning of the bladder Is achieved in the scanning planes where the scanning lines penetrate the surface of the bladder perpendicularly relative to it. After image reconstruction, this gives the most informative image of the bladder with a minimum of shadows that blur otherwise essential image information.

[0045] A perpendicular penetration of ultrasound signals relative to the surface of the bladder thus gives a better signal/noise ratio than images which are reconstructed on the basis of ultrasound signals which have not penetrated the bladder perpendicularly relative to the surface of the bladder.

[0046] It is part of the present invention to optimize the signal/noise ratio in the signals which are used for calculating the volume of the bladder by expedient orientation of the surface of the individual transducers relative to the bladder to be measured. FIG. 6 shows a schematic section of FIG. 5, where two transducers 4A and 4B are arranged on the body 1 for the purpose of imaging the bladder 9. As mentioned before, the transducers are disposed on a circle having a centre through which a central axis 11 is drawn in FIG. 6, said central axis having the same spacing from all the transducers at all points. To achieve the optimum position of the transducers, these are oriented such that the central lines 12A and 12B, which extend through the centre of the transducers, will intersect the central axis 11 at the same point in a direction toward the bladder 9 whose volume is to be recorded. The shown orientation of the transducers ensures that each transducer scans the bladder at an intended, right angle relative to the surface of the bladder with the consequent positive influence on the signal/noise ratio.

[0047] In the case where just two transducers are used, it is not optimum, however, to position these equidistantly on the circle 5. FIG. 7 shows the optimum position of two transducers 4A and 4B which, as shown, are positioned 90 degrees offset relative to each other, cf. angle 14. When just two transducers are used, the 90 degrees offset position will cause the scanning planes from the two transducers to be perpendicular to each other. This ensures that the scanning planes may be related to their respective axes in a Cartesian system of coordinates corresponding to e.g. the X-axis and the Y-axis, the third axis being common to both scannings from which it is prior art to reconstruct a 3D image.

[0048] The apparatus according to the present invention may advantageously comprise electronic circuits for controlling the transducers, including excitation of these as well as data collection from them. Electronic circuits in the form of signal processors or microprocessors will be capable of calculating the volume of the bladder on the basis of algorithms which are simple to develope for a person skilled in the art.

[0049] By connecting an input medium, e.g. in the form of a keyboard, the apparatus may be pre-programmed, also to emit a signal when the volume of the bladder exceeds an optional level.

[0050] Also, the apparatus may advantageously be equipped with electronic circuits for wireless communication with external units, such as computers or mobile telephones.

[0051] When the apparatus is connected wirelessly to external units, data may be exchanged between these, which allows remote-controlled programming of the apparatus and alarm to the external units.

[0052] Since the apparatus does not contain energy-intensive mechanical and electromechanical components, the apparatus may be powered by small and light-weight batteries.

[0053] The described invention enables continuous monitoring of the bladder volume in ambulatory or sleeping individuals.

[0054] The measurements are substantially without discomfort to the users because of the low weight and the small volume. Since the apparatus does not contain mechanical gears or electric motors, it is noise-free and sturdy as well as simple and inexpensive to manufacture.

Classifications
U.S. Classification600/447, 128/916
International ClassificationA61B5/20, A61B8/08
Cooperative ClassificationA61B8/4281, A61B8/4472, A61B5/202, A61B5/204, A61B8/0858, A61B8/4488, A61B8/4227
European ClassificationA61B5/20D2, A61B5/20D, A61B8/42B4, A61B8/08J