New ideas improve upon ultrasound's practice

October 5, 2005

One of several new ideas about how modern technology can be used in creative ways to help efficiency and increase ultrasound's presence involves the use of mobile phones. Outfitted with microcameras, these portable devices could relay more than pics and flicks-they could also broadcast ultrasound images.

One of several new ideas about how modern technology can be used in creative ways to help efficiency and increase ultrasound's presence involves the use of mobile phones. Outfitted with microcameras, these portable devices could relay more than pics and flicks-they could also broadcast ultrasound images.

Newly credentialed sonologists frequently run into ultrasound findings that can be difficult to interpret. A real-time consultation with a specialist via teleradiology may not be possible, however, due to financial or other constraints.

Dr. Michael Blaivas and colleagues at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta compared high-resolution ultrasound images from thermal printouts with images recorded and transmitted using commercially available cell phone cameras. They randomly selected 50 images from actual patients from the emergency department at a large teaching hospital. They presented their findings in a poster at the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine meeting in June.

The investigators found no statistically significant differences in quality, resolution, and detail between the images transmitted by phone and the original prints.

Two credentialed, experienced sonologists reviewed ultrasound images sent from a phone camera used to shoot the high-resolution thermal printouts and transmit them to another mobile phone screen. They recorded, identified, and gauged anatomy and pathology and rated the image using a 10-point Likert scale. They repeated the process with the original thermal printouts and analyzed data using descriptive statistics and other tests.

The researchers found an acceptable level of agreement for pathology and structure detection between phone and thermal printer images. They did find, however, a statistically significant increase in diagnosis confidence from hard-copy ultrasound images compared with phone images (p = 0.003 and p = 0.02, respectively).

Some images were considered suboptimal or too small for analysis. And even though the original images were obtained from real emergency room patients, none represented real-time diagnosis. The investigators concluded, however, that ultrasound scanning review via cell phone seems feasible and merits further investigation.