Multimedia software facilitates real-time telesonography

May 12, 2004

New technological developments may soon allow radiologists to receive and interpret full motion sonographic image data, according to a feasibility study published in the March 2 issue of the Journal of Digital Imaging.The study found that it is

New technological developments may soon allow radiologists to receive and interpret full motion sonographic image data, according to a feasibility study published in the March 2 issue of the Journal of Digital Imaging.

The study found that it is possible to use low-cost industry standard components, including multimedia players embedded in Web browsers and commercial compression techniques, as enablers for telesonography.

"We've shown that our telesonography model can produce streaming media for transmission over the Web for remote interpretation," said Dr. Matthew J. Bassignani, an assistant professor of radiology at the University of Virginia Health Sciences System.

The technology can serve local hospitals and radiology practices that are spread over a large metropolitan area, but it also gives the university the ability to provide expert interpretations of ultrasound scans performed in remote areas such as war zones, he said.

"We've had enthusiastic discussions with outside hospitals where there are physician shortages," Bassignani said. "We hope this telesonography service can provide expert interpretation of ultrasound images for underserved areas."

While communication advances have facilitated Web-based teleradiology systems, telesonography presents a unique challenge in that static images may not always convey the true scope of the pathology.

The streaming images give interpreting radiologists an additional component that static teleradiology images do not: real-time and full motion video of the exam as it is performed, and also the ability to guide the sonographer's scan.

There is still a question whether the compression and transmission of sonographic data over streaming multimedia in any way degrades the diagnostic quality of the images. The university is seeking additional remote sites to transmit streaming data for interpretation to check for instances of image degradation.

"Our preliminary work suggests there are subtle differences in the images, but it is unlikely these will affect diagnostic accuracy," Bassignani said.