April 23, 2009

Ultrasound Imaging Now Possible with a Smartphone

According to an article written by Tony Fitzpatrick, William D. Richard, Ph.D., an associate professor of computer science and engineering at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL), and David Zar, a research associate in computer science and engineering at WUSTL "are bringing the minimalist approach to medical care and computing by coupling USB-based ultrasound probe technology with a smartphone, enabling a compact, mobile computational platform and a medical imaging device that fits in the palm of a hand." (Photo courtesy of David Kilper/WUSTL)

Through a $100,000 grant Microsoft awarded in 2008, this technology is compatible with Microsoft Windows mobile-based smartphones. "As a result, it is now possible to build smartphone-compatible USB ultrasound probes for imaging the kidney, liver, bladder and eyes, endocavity probes for prostate and uterine screenings and biopsies, and vascular probes for imaging veins and arteries for starting IVs and central lines." Dr. Richard notes that this medical innovation "could become the essential computer of the Developing World, where trained medical personnel are scarce, but most of the population, as much as 90 percent, have access to a cell phone tower."

"'With 70 percent of the world's population has no access to medical imaging,'" Mr. Zar said, this technology could quickly modernize the medical industry by providing early diagnosis and cost-effective monitoring of treatable diseases. Mr. Zar further explains, "the vision of the new system is to train people in remote areas of the developing world on the basics of gathering data with the phones and sending it to a centralized unit many miles, or half a world away where specialists can analyze the image and make a diagnosis." (Photo courtesy of David Kilper/WUSTL)

This type of technology is often cost-prohibitive to become utilized in the developing world. "A typical, portable ultrasound device may cost as much as $30,000. Some of these USB-based probes sell for less than $2,000 with the goal of a price tag as low as $500." Should the price-point drop to a level that gives accessibility to hospitals and medical clinics in the developing world, can you imagine the impact of empowering a caregiver to perform a one-minute scan, transfer the data captured to a clinic anywhere in the world, and quickly receive the results?

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