After the invention of an ultrasound device to better detect kidney stones, engineers from the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington observed that they could accurately reposition small objects with ultrasound on a laboratory table. In conjunction with partners in the UW School of Medicine urology, emergency medicine, and radiology departments, the researchers went on to advance the technology and to use the same waves from a hand held ultrasound transducer to re-locate kidney stones in preliminary tests.
Because astronauts are prone to kidney stones, NASA is interested in the potential of the technology for space missions, where it would be difficult to return the astronaut to Earth for treatment. By relocating a kidney stone to prevent it from obstructing the flow of urine, it is hoped that the device will spare patients on Earth and astronauts in space from both the severe pain and serious complications of urinary blockage.
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