MRI successfully performed via Internet
Software that potentially allows an off-site technologist to perform complex MRI procedures
over the Internet has been developed by a team of researchers in California, in
collaboration with Siemens Medical Solutions.
With the new software tools, technologists will
potentially be able to use their talents anywhere. They will no longer be physically
tied to a single building or even a single MRI machine. Distance will no longer
be a barrier.
In the experiments, the off-site technologist
accessed the program through a secure password. Researchers led by Dr. J. Paul Finn
of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles,
wanted to determine how well an expert technologist, using a personal computer with
direct interactive control over the machine, could perform a highly complex cardiovascular
MRI. An on-site technologist was in attendance throughout the experiment to monitor
the patient’s safety, to provide instruction and to administer any necessary
intravenous contrast material. The computer used in the experiment had a 2-GHz central
processing unit, 256 MB of RAM and a graphics board capable of displaying 1280 x
1024 pixels from the user interface, with a color depth of 32 bits.
And, surprisingly, many of the images
obtained by the technologist using remote controls were deemed superior by the researchers
to those obtained by a less experienced on-site technologist directly operating
the device. The same MRI machine was used in all the trials.
The images captured by the remote technologist
were rated excellent 90 percent of the time (in 38 of 42 experiments), while images
from the on-site control operator were rated excellent 60 percent of the time (in
25 of 42 experiments).
Besides helping with specialized clinical
scans on patients, the technology could have several applications. It could be used
to train technologists in the latest techniques and might also be helpful for research
trials, where scrupulous attention to detail is important. It also could be applied
to x-ray CT scans and could prove particularly useful in emergencies, such as natural
disasters or casualties from the battlefield, where local technologists with specific
skills might be overwhelmed or in short supply. However, these applications remain
to be tested.
The results of the study appeared in
the November issue of the journal Radiology.
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