Prototype high-speed telemammography system debuts

May 14, 2001

The rapid development of advanced computing and high-bandwidth communication technologies has enabled electronic medical applications once considered merely visionary to enter the mainstream of modern medical practice. One such application being

The rapid development of advanced computing and high-bandwidth communication technologies has enabled electronic medical applications once considered merely visionary to enter the mainstream of modern medical practice.

One such application being readied for prime time is a novel clinic-to-lab connectivity architecture for telemammography under development at the University of South Florida. As described at the February Medical Imaging meeting in San Diego, this application explores the feasibility of deploying a new high-speed telemammography system capable of providing services to patients remotely located from expert healthcare providers. It uses an open, nonproprietary gigabit network switch with link speeds running up to 20 Gbps, a platform ideal to demonstrate the telemedicine application.

The system, a prototype of which has been tested successfully at USF, employs fiber cable and ATM switches, one of the highest speed communication switches on the market to handle image transmission. With this configuration, a set of eight 40 to 60-Mb images can be transmitted in about two seconds.

"The National Cancer Institute cancer control program's aim to include 80% of eligible women in mammography screening by the year 2000 has not been achieved," said Ehsan O. Sheybani, an electrical engineer at USF. "Provision of an online screening, teleconsultation, and telediagnostic service for breast cancer will have major benefits by means of improved healthcare access and time-critical care."

Sheybani hopes to develop and optimize a new class of adaptive computer-aided detection/diagnosis, digital signal processing (CAD/DSP) methods to facilitate the telemammography system.

Current CAD/DSP methods are generally designed for a specific digitizer and resolution and thus are not generalizable for most remote sites and not suitable for telemammography, Sheybani said. The CAD/DSP algorithms Sheybani is working on are independent of digitizer and resolution, and they compensate for distortion resulting from image compression and transmission.

"This is the future of radiology, especially for those living in rural or remote areas who have no access to physicians or clinics," Sheybani said. "What we can do is install an acquisition station there, and the rest is just a matter of patients sitting on that side, doctors sitting on this side, transmitting diagnostic opinions over the network."

Most agree that telemammography has the potential to reduce costs and enhance the quality of healthcare through faster and better diagnosis, as remote experts can be consulted for complicated cases of abnormal findings, while providing improved access to early screening and education for women in remote regions.

"Combined with the proposed high-speed network, this research has the potential to achieve a long-awaited goal of this field, namely a high-tech cancer information, prevention, detection, and diagnostic network," Sheybani said.