Method of Enhancing Ultrasound Visibility of Hyperechoic Materials
A permanent or temporary marker is embedded within a hydrogel plug used in a biopsy procedure to indicate the location of a suspicious lesion so that the marker may be found in a subsequent surgical procedure. A combination of at least one permanent and at least one temporary marker may be used. Inserts of differing sizes and shapes may also be placed into the hydrogel plugs during their manufacturing process and removed from the plugs after the plugs have cured so that air-filled cavities are left in the plug. These cavities are temporary but may be used to augment location of a permanent marker.
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This disclosure is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/277,721, filed Mar. 28, 2006, by the same inventors and having the same title. That disclosure is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety into this disclosure.BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
This invention relates, generally, to a method for improving the visibility of a hyperechoic marker or markers under ultrasound. Such markers are used to indicate the location of a tumor or lesion so that a procedure to remove such lesion or tumor may be performed weeks or months after the marker has been implanted. More particularly, it relates to markers that incorporate hydrogels to enhance the visibility of the markers with imaging techniques such as ultrasound and to methods for making such markers.
2. Description of the Prior Art
A permanent metal or hard plastic, such as a permanent, bio-compatible plastic such as polyethylene, or temporary, bioabsorbable, biocompatible plastic such as PGA/PLA, or other suitable marker must be left at a biopsy site at the completion of a biopsy if the site is to be located again in the future. Biodegradable markers are not permanent and therefore cannot be relied upon if a biopsy site is to be re-located at a time remote from the time of the biopsy. However, there are applications where a temporary, biodegradable marker may have utility, either when used alone, in combination with other temporary markers, or in combination with one or more permanent markers. Suture and collagen-based markers are not suitable as markers because they are hyperechoic, i.e., difficult to see under ultrasound because such materials are easily confused with other shadowing normal structures in the body such as fibrous tissue, fatty tissue, ducts in breast tissue, and the like, for example. Such tissue provides a background clutter that masks the presence of a marker made of metal, hard plastic, or other hyperechoic material.
Water, unlike metal, hard plastic, and other hyperechoic materials, is hypoechoic, i.e., easy to see under imaging techniques such as ultrasound. Therefore it would be advantageous if a marker made of a hyperechoic material such as metal or hard plastic could be surrounded by an easily seen quantity of water.
However, the art includes no means for surrounding a hyperechoic marker with water at a biopsy site.
There is a need, then, for a permanent marker that is surrounded by water after it has been positioned at a biopsy site.
There is also a need, however, for a non-permanent, i.e., temporary marker that is surrounded by a hypoechoic material such as water at a biopsy site.
Moreover, there is a need for both permanent and temporary markers formed of hyperechoic materials, or temporary hyperechoic markers alone, surrounded by a hypoechoic material.
A need also exists for a hydrogel manufacturing process that produces a cured and dehydrated plug or marker that contracts in length and increases in diameter upon being hydrated.
There is also a need for a hydrogel manufacturing process that produces a cured and dehydrated plug or marker that contracts in width and increases in length and height upon being hydrated.
There is also a further need for a hydrogel manufacturing process that produces a cured and dehydrated plug or marker that contracts radially and increases in length upon being hydrated
However, in view of the prior art taken as a whole at the time the present invention was made, it was not obvious to those of ordinary skill how the identified needs could be fulfilled.SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The long-standing but heretofore unfulfilled need for a dehydrated marker that encapsulates a permanent hyperechoic marker, a temporary hyperechoic marker, or permanent and temporary hyperechoic markers in combination with one another, and that facilitates imaging of said hyperechoic markers is met by this new, useful, and non-obvious invention.
The long-standing but heretofore unfulfilled need for a dehydrated marker that contracts in length and increases in diameter, contracts in width and increases in length, or radially contracts and increases in length when hydrated, and a method for making such a marker, is also met by this invention.
Hydrogel, in order to be effective in the application of this invention, should contain about eighty to ninety percent (80%-90%) water. Hydrogels can contain higher or lower percentages of water but the range of eighty to ninety percent is believed to be optimal for the purposes of this invention but this invention is not limited to that particular range. Forming a biopsy marker from a hydrogel therefore provides a way to contain water so that it does not flow. It would be advantageous to embed a permanent hyperechoic marker within a cured and dehydrated hydrogel marker or plug. It would also be advantageous to embed a temporary hyperechoic marker, or a combination of permanent and temporary hyperechoic markers within a cured and dehydrated marker or plug. The plug would become hydrated by natural body moisture after being positioned at a biopsy site, thereby surrounding the permanent marker with water. The water would be easily seen under ultrasound and therefore the marker it surrounds would be easy to see.
The permanent marker may be positioned in the center of the hydrogel or off-center with respect thereto. A temporary marker, or a combination of permanent and temporary markers, may also be so positioned. The markers may even be positioned external to the hydrogel. In the latter case, a record may be made to the effect that the marker or markers will be found at the six o'clock position relative to the hydrogel, or the like.
The novel hydrogel polymer has a permanent or temporary marker, or a combination of permanent and temporary markers formed of metal, hard plastic, or other hyperechoic material embedded within the polymer. The hydration of the polymer by the natural moisture of the tissue surrounding it causes expansion of the polymer and thus minimizes the risk of migration. The growing hydrogel centers itself in the biopsy cavity as it grows.
The novel hydrogel composition does not include PGA/PLA. It is preferably peg-based and has advantages in imaging. Specifically, the plug is mostly water when hydrated. This provides a significant advantage because water is easily visible when ultrasound is employed as aforesaid.
The novel marker has two (2) imaging stages. The plug is solid and dry when it is deployed initially to mark the cavity created by a biopsy procedure.
The solid, dry plug is seen as a shadowing, hyperechoic, linear object with posterior acoustic shadowing on ultrasound.
However, as the hydrogel expands, due to naturally-present moisture from the surrounding tissue, the hydration enables increasing sound through transmission, appears more and more hypoechoic, and is easy to visualize on follow up ultrasound studies. The hydrogel, when hydrated, appears black in color, centers itself in the biopsy or other cavity as it grows, and frames the permanent, temporary, or combination of permanent and temporary markers.
The polymer plug is molded and cured into different shapes to avoid confusion with normal breast structures such as ducts. The shapes can be rod-like, spiral, round, toroidal, rectangular, string of pearls or any other predetermined geometrical configuration that does not have an appearance that resembles a naturally-occurring feature.
The hypoechoic nature of the hydrated plug enables ultrasound visibility of the permanent, temporary or combination of permanent and temporary markers within the hydrogel hydrated plug because the permanent, temporary, or permanent/temporary combination marker is outlined as a specular reflector within a hypoechoic hydrated marker plug having a water-like nonreflective substrate.
Water is the most easily visualized substrate under ultrasound. The permanent, temporary, or combination of permanent and temporary markers of this invention can have any shape that are not easily confused with a natural shape as mentioned above and it can be made of any permanent metallic-like or hard plastic material. Helical shapes having a hollow interior is a preferred shape because it allows the polymer to better retain the marker within.
Permanent and temporary markers may also be augmented by cavities formed in the hypoechoic material that encapsulates the markers. Such cavities are hypoechoic and thus serve to further indicate the location of the marker. The size and shape of the cavity or cavities is determined at the time the plug is manufactured. Specifically, the cavity or cavities are formed by inserts of differing shapes and sizes that are positioned inside the hydrogel during the curing process. The inserts are removed from the hydrogel after the hydrogel has cured, leaving the cavity or cavities in the hydrogel. The cavities are air-filled and thus reflect under ultrasound imaging in a way that differs from the reflection of the hydrogel. The cavities are not permanent because the air gradually escapes. The length of time required for the air to escape depends upon the size of the cavity, the shape of the cavity and whether or not the cavity is completely encapsulated or is in communication with the surface of the hydrogel.
An elongate suture may also have a first end embedded in a hydrogel plug during the curing and hydration process so that a second end of the suture may be positioned externally of a patient's body after a biopsy procedure.
The permanent, temporary, or combination permanent and temporary metallic or hard plastic markers may have a rod shape, a cylindrical shape, a coil shape, or other suitable shape. The coil configuration allows hydrogel to cure inside the core of the coil and between the loops of the coil to achieve a complete and smooth coverage of the hyperechoic marker by the hypoechoic hydrogel.
The novel marker or markers have several medical applications for soft tissue implants with a controlled RE/LC ratio. For example, it may be used as a soft tissue or void filler in cosmetic applications. A physician would start with a small size implant that expands in time to fill a cavity in a radial direction only without any longitudinal expansion.
Hydrogel implants post hydration are softer than most conventional implants and can take different shapes in filling soft tissue cavities. Expansion in the length direction may need to be controlled to maintain the desired shape.
There are also applications that require a higher than usual expansion rate, and there are applications where higher expansion rates are needed for small dehydrated implants in one direction only while contraction or shrinkage occurs in a different direction.
A primary advantage of the novel markers is that they provide a metal, hard plastic, or other permanent, temporary or combination marker that is easy to see under imaging because it is surrounded by water due to the hydration of the hydrogel within which it is embedded.
These and other advantages will become apparent as this disclosure proceeds. The invention includes the features of construction, arrangement of parts, and combination of elements set forth herein, and the scope of the invention is set forth in the claims appended hereto.
For a fuller understanding of the nature and objects of the invention, reference should be made to the following detailed description, taken in connection with the accompanying drawings, in which:
Referring now to
Hydrogel plug 10 includes a plurality of temporary markers, collectively denoted 12, embedded within a hydrogel material 14 having, in this first embodiment, a shape designed to inhibit migration of the plug within tissue. The
The preferred temporary, biodegradable marker is a biodegradable molded polymer made of PGA/PLA or other suitable biodegradable materials that are compatible and otherwise suitable for use in human tissue.
In the alternative, as depicted in
The embodiment of
The embodiment of
The embodiment of
This invention is not limited to any particular shape. Hydrogel material 14 may be formed into any shape that inhibits migration.
Marker 12 could also be positioned in the interior of a balloon or other bladder and said balloon or bladder could be filled with water. Although this may not be a practical way of identifying the location of a permanent or temporary marker, or combination thereof, it would work because water is hypoechoic and such an apparatus would therefore identify the location of a hyperechoic marker.
The applications of this invention are not limited to permanent, temporary or combination markers encapsulated in hydrogel for use in biopsy procedures. The same method may be used to facilitate detection of any metal, hard plastic, or other hyperechoic structures in the body such as vascular stents, surgical staples, embolization coils, radiation seed, aneurysm clips, electrode stimulation wires, prosthetic valves, stent grafts, biliary stents, drug delivery metal containers or dispensers, and the like.
It will thus be seen that the objects set forth above, and those made apparent from the foregoing description, are efficiently attained and since certain changes may be made in the above construction without departing from the scope of the invention, it is intended that all matters contained in the foregoing description or shown in the accompanying drawings shall be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.
It is also to be understood that the following claims are intended to cover all of the generic and specific features of the invention herein described, and all statements of the scope of the invention that, as a matter of language, might be said to fall therebetween.
Now that the invention has been described,
1. A method for facilitating ultrasound viewing of a hyperechoic material disposed within tissue, comprising the steps of:
- selecting at least one hyperechoic material from a group of hyperechoic materials including permanent and temporary, biodegradable hyperechoic materials;
- encapsulating said at least one hyperechoic material within a hypoechoic material so that the hypoechoic material surrounds the at least one hyperechoic material and therefore identifies the location of the at least one hyperechoic material.
2. The method of claim 1, further comprising the step of:
- employing a hydrogel as said hypoechoic material.
3. The method of claim 2, further comprising the steps of:
- inserting the at least one hyperechoic material within the hydrogel when the hydrogel is in a non-hydrated state; and
- inserting the hydrogel into tissue so that natural moisture of the body hydrates said hydrogel;
- whereby the hydrated hydrogel is easily seen under ultrasound; and
- whereby the position of the at least one hyperechoic material is indicated by the hydrated hydrogel.
4. A method for facilitating ultrasound viewing of a hyperechoic material disposed within tissue, comprising the steps of:
- positioning at least one insert having a predetermined size and shape into a hydrogel plug when said hydrogel plug is manufactured;
- removing said at least one insert from said hydrogel plug after said hydrogel plug has been manufactured;
- whereby at least one air-filled cavity is formed in said hydrogel plug.
5. The method of claim 4, further comprising the step of:
- positioning said at least one insert within said hydrogel plug so that said at least one insert is wholly embedded with the hydrogel plug.
6. The method of claim 4, further comprising the step of:
- positioning said at least one insert within said hydrogel plug so that said at least one insert is in open communication with an external surface of the hydrogel plug.
7. A method for facilitating ultrasound viewing of a hyperechoic material disposed within tissue, comprising the step of:
- selecting at least one hyperechoic material from a group of hyperechoic materials including permanent and temporary, biodegradable materials;
- positioning said at least one hyperechoic material adjacent a hypoechoic material so that the hypoechoic material is near the at least one hyperechoic material and therefore identifies the location of the at least one hyperechoic material.