New Non-Invasive Tool Developed for Detecting Small Vessel Vasculitis


cross section of a blood vessel/ Photo by vampy1 via 123RF


Small vessel vasculitis or inflammation of the small blood vessels are usually diagnosed by a skin biopsy. But researchers at Duke University developed an imaging tool to detect the condition.

The imaging tool they developed is called photoacoustic imaging. It converts the light beamed through tissue into ultrasound waves which are analyzed to produce high-resolution images. The tool can enable diagnosis of the condition without risking the patient.

Typically, a skin biopsy for small vessel vasculitis can be achieved easily at the bedside, except in certain body areas like the around the nails and tips of fingers and toes. These areas are prone to poor wound healing and infection if subjected to the biopsy.

In photoacoustic imaging, several properties of the tissue can be revealed, such as the anatomical, functional, and metabolic properties. Also, these have a specificity rate at the molecular and neuronal level, essential for clinicians to see the color, speed, and amount of blood flowing inside the tiny vessels.

The prototype version they produced is a handheld device, inspired by the portable barcode scanner found in supermarkets. The same operating principle of a barcode scanner was applied to the diagnostic device so it can read the skin of a patient.

"We were inspired by the handheld devices that scan barcodes in grocery stores. The devices use a polygon mirror and a laser diode to quickly 'read' the product information, and we adapted this concept to build a prototype handheld photoacoustic device to 'read' the skin,” said Dr. Junjie Yao, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering, quoted

Their portable, handheld photoacoustic tool is lightweight and has a size of a flashlight. When used, it can clearly identify the oxygenation and organization of the tiny blood vessels.