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New Way Of Remotely Conducting Ultrasound Exams


A study at a U.S. medical school shows that doctors can use ultrasound images sent by telephone. This means people in poor areas of the world could be diagnosed by experienced radiologists over the Internet.

If Veljko Popov could have his way, the people in his native country would have access to top quality health care. Mr. Popov is a student at Dartmouth Medical School in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire. He came to the United States about 10 years ago from Zrenjanin, in what was then Yugoslavia, and now, after a bloody war, Serbia.

Recently, he and Dr. Robert Harris, who teaches radiology at Dartmouth Medical School, took a portable, compact ultrasound unit to a remote hospital in Serbia. For Veljko Popov, the choice of Zrenjanin as the place to conduct the study was logical.

"Zrenjanin is my hometown,” said Mr. Popov. “I felt emotionally bonded and after coming to the States, I wanted to help the population in general by perhaps helping one of the hospitals in the town."

The men checked hundreds of patients and sent the images back to doctors at Dartmouth Medical School. Dr. Harris says the pilot project was successful.

"When you send captured static images over, they're as good as the images you see on the screen," said Dr. Harris.

Ultrasound technology uses high-frequency sound to create images from inside the body on a computer screen. The images can show how internal tissues and organs move and enable doctors to see blood flow and heart valve functions.

Because ultrasound does not use x-rays, it is especially useful in helping doctors monitor the health of pregnant women and their unborn babies. Yet people in remote areas or in developing countries often don't have access to this technology.

Dr. Harris says that with some training, nurses or medical technicians in the field could use a portable ultrasound unit to help the expert physician made the diagnosis. "It's really kind of exciting because you have a two-way communication of both video and audio, and if they are not trained in ultra-sound, you can guide them through the process, you know, 'Move the probe a little bit more laterally or up toward the head,' and you can get the picture you need."

Dr. Harris and Mr. Popov now want to implement the project so more people can benefit from expert medical care.

Mr. Popov says he believes doctors will donate their time. "This was started as a humanitarian project and it depends on the goodwill of the people and the physicians in this country. One goal of this project was to enable physicians who want to do humanitarian and philanthropic work but who cannot necessarily travel to remote areas and third world locations to still be able to do this work remotely."

Dr. Harris says the next likely expansion would be in Central America where Dartmouth already has programs in place.

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