Laser Could Transform Osteoporosis Assessment

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Point that beam over here…Laser-based measurements are proving to be a promising method for the assessment of osteoporosis. A team of Finnish researchers has developed a novel ultrasound technique…one that relies on laser beams to assess osteoporosis. It is the first time in the case of bone that laser-based photo-acoustic methods have been used for producing ultrasound. This research is part of the Photonics and Modern Imaging Techniques Research Programme of the Academy of Finland and involves input by researchers from the Universities of Jyväskylä, Helsinki and Oulu.

“The X-ray-based DXA [dual energy X-ray absorptiometry] method that is currently in use is expensive and, therefore, does not allow for population screening. Furthermore, there are some limitations in the accuracy of the method,” says Professor Timonen from the University of Jyväskylä, in the March 8, 2012 news release.

As indicated in the news release, ultrasound methods are more versatile than X-ray methods, but they are susceptible to disturbances and, therefore, have not so far produced very reliable measurements. “The measuring difficulties arise from, for instance, disturbances caused by the necessary contact between the ultrasound source and the skin, and by the layer of soft tissue on top of the bone,” said Professor Timonen.

“We direct a suitable laser beam at the surface of the skin to produce an ultrasound pulse that will propagate along the bone. This prevents contact problems during the measurement process. Furthermore, the ultrasound pulse can be easily tailored by adjusting the laser beam. This enables us to achieve a much more accurate measurement,” added Professor Timonen.

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