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Radiologists say look Ma, no hands

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Medical care may soon include a mobile system that enables physicians, surgeons, and radiologists to access, read, and transmit medical images and reports via a wireless, head-worn display, if the U.S. Army is correct. A heads-up display would allow

Medical care may soon include a mobile system that enables physicians, surgeons, and radiologists to access, read, and transmit medical images and reports via a wireless, head-worn display, if the U.S. Army is correct.

A heads-up display would allow Army medics and civilian physicians to focus on the patient, while at the same time monitoring key information without looking away. Efficiency and patient safety would both improve.

This goal falls under the InfoMedic concept, ans the Army's Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) has awarded a contract for initial development of a mobile wireless personal display system for medical applications. Phase one, designed to bring information to the point of task, is to be completed by the summer of 2003. Specifications call for a transparent, high-resolution, daylight-readable, head-worn display to augment the physician's natural vision by merging electronic information into the field-of-view.

The project will leverage a new personal display called Nomad, developed by Microvision of Bothell, WA. This enables physicians, including radiologists, to work hands-free and heads-up in any lighting condition. While the system benefits a variety of applications, this particular Army project is interested in its medical potential. It should improve the performance of battlefield medics who must perform life-saving procedures on unstable patients. A heads-up, augmented vision device allows medics to keep their hands and eyes on the patient at all times.

In the civilian world, heads-up displays are applicable in areas such as image-guided surgery, interventional cardiology, and critical care. Interventional cardiology procedures, for instance, require physicians to watch multiple images while guiding catheters into the heart. In some procedures, a single image does not provide all the information necessary for complex clinical navigation, requiring cardiologists to look away from the patient to observe several individual monitors.

Heads-up displays present physicians with all critical information overlaid into their natural field-of-view. Thus, cardiologists can view ultrasound images of the inside of the coronary artery while viewing catheter position on the x-ray monitor - all presented simultaneously on the heads-up display.

Radiologists are also interested in the device.

"It can be used for some radiology applications to display digital images," said Matt Nichols, Microvision's director of communications. "We've spoken to several surgeons and radiologists who indicated that the contrast and resolution displayed was impressive."

Field studies and trials to validate and document this potential are under way.

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