Ultrasound contrast gains a champion with new society
A new international and cross-disciplinary professional society, the International Contrast Ultrasound Society (ICUS), has been formed to overcome challenges in the field of contrast ultrasound and increasing contrast’s role in improving patient care worldwide.

The society was formed last week at the Advances in Contrast Ultrasound: Enhanced Atherosclerotic Imaging and Intervention conference in Chicago.

Its formation follows the controversial decision by the FDA to impose new limitations on the use of contrast ultrasound—a decision that was largely reversed in May following opposition from contrast ultrasound experts, who marshaled new scientific data relating to the life-saving potential of improved contrast ultrasound diagnoses.

Contrast agents are approved in more than 70 countries for use in diagnosing a wide variety of medical abnormalities; however, only four contrast agents are available for approved indications in various countries: Definity (Lantheus Medical Imaging), Levovist (Schering AG), Optison (GE Healthcare), and Sonovue (Bracco Diagnostics).

While usage of the agents in echocardiograms has declined in the last two years, ongoing clinical trials and pending regulatory applications are aimed at expanding the uses of ultrasound contrast agents.

“There is growing interest worldwide in expanding the approved uses of contrast ultrasound – not just for imaging the heart, but also for diagnosing abnormalities of the liver, carotid arteries, gastro-intestinal system, kidneys, and other organ systems throughout the body,” according to according to Steven Feinstein, MD, co-president of ICUS and director of echocardiography at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Barry Goldberg, MD, co-president of ICUS and past president of the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine and the World Federation of Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology, added that the organization will provide a forum for cross-specialty communication and collaboration among contrast ultrasound professionals worldwide. “Collaboration and inclusiveness are key to the growth of the field and, ultimately, will significantly improve patient care,” he said.

Founding ICUS board members include contrast ultrasound experts from North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America.

The recent FDA controversy has helped cardiologists appreciate “the vital importance of our colleagues in radiology, vascular imaging, and related imaging fields who also are working to develop contrast ultrasound applications -- for the liver, gynecological uses, whole body scans,” according to Feinstein. “The more we learned of their parallel universe, the more we became convinced that we need to foster more cross-specialty dialogue and collaboration.”