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MRI successfully performed via Internet

Nov 2006
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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