Doctors no longer have to switch transducers when imaging patients thanks to the portable iQ ultrasound-on-a-chip device from Butterfly Network.
The FDA has cleared the ultrasound-on-a-chip technology for 13 applications, and that’s a record breaker — it’s actually the biggest clearance to date for an ultrasound transducer. The compact transducer is designed to be plugged into an iPhone so that ultrasound imaging can be available to everyone on the planet.

Physicians can attest that traditional cart-based ultrasound machines are typically bulky and come with at least three transducers — this makes them hard to control or maneuver in the emergency room. According to the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, these machines use piezoelectrics (ceramic crystal materials) to create and receive sound.

The company said, “Butterfly Network’s iQ device utilizes its ultrasound-on-a-chip technology, which incorporates the capabilities of the three standard ultrasound probes into a single 2D matrix array comprised of thousands of microelectromechanical systems.”

For the most part, a doctor uses the device to scan a patient’s body and sees the imaging on an iPhone. Since the IQ system integrates three transducers in one 2D matrix array, the physician won’t have to worry about switching out transducers to conduct imaging in some other part of the body, saving precious time. When all is done, the images will be transferred to the cloud for storage.

The CEO of Butterfly Network, Jonathan Rothberg said, “Butterfly’s Ultrasound-on-a-Chip technology enables a low-cost window into the human body, making high-quality diagnostic imaging accessible to anyone.”

He also added, “Two-thirds of the world’s population has no access to medical imaging, … and today our team is doing something about it. And they are just getting started.”

Butterfly’s iQ received FDA’s nod for diagnostic imaging in up to 13 clinical applications including cardiac, musculoskeletal and peripheral vessel applications.

Dr. John Martin, Butterfly’s chief medical officer, said, “By removing the barrier of price, I expect Butterfly to ultimately replace the stethoscope in the daily practice of medicine. We can now provide a diagnostic system to address the millions of children that die of pneumonia each year and the hundreds of thousands of women that die in childbirth, and these are just two examples of the impact this technology will have.”

The company’s ultrasound-on-a-chip device is priced below $2,000 and will commence shipping systems in 2018.