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A radical new teleradiology concept centered on cell phone technology may one day provide medical imaging to millions of people in areas currently underserved by medicine.

A radical new teleradiology concept centered on cell phone technology may one day provide medical imaging to millions of people in areas currently underserved by medicine.The new approach replaces the conventional stand-alone medical imaging device with a new imaging system consisting of remote acquisition and processing components connected by cell phone.

It works like this:

  • Imaging data are acquired at the patient site by a simple modality with limited controls and no image display capabilities.
  • Cell phone technology transmits the unprocessed raw imaging data from the patient site to an advanced image reconstruction processor at a remote central site.
  • Once the image is processed and reconstructed, it is transmitted back to the cell phone for display at the patient site.

"Unlike conventional teleradiology, where image reconstruction and control occurs at the patient site and telecommunication is used to transmit images, in our system the cellular phone transmits the unprocessed imaging data from the imaging modality and subsequently receives the processed image back from the central site," said Boris Rubinsky, Ph.D., a professor of bioengineering and mechanical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.

The researchers had to design a new imaging modality to make the system feasible (PLoS ONE. 2008 Apr 30;3[4])."Feasibility of the concept has been demonstrated using a new frequency division multiplexing electrical impedance tomography (EIT) system that we have developed for dynamic medical imaging," Rubinsky said.EIT technology uses measurements of currents and voltages from a set of electrodes placed on the body to produce interior images, displayed as a map of electrical impedance.The design simplifies the imaging apparatus at the patient site and eliminates the need for specially trained technicians to operate sophisticated acquisition modalities, Rubinsky said. It also reduces regional costs of medical devices in general, since patient sites would merely acquire, not process, imaging data.Image display can occur on a conventional portable cell phone or other personal digital assistant device. Optimal image quality can be obtained, according to Rubinsky.The system provides a fairly simple solution to one of the world's stark medical realities. The World Health Organization estimates that three-quarters of the world's population has no access to medical imaging."We believe this concept has the potential for decreasing the complexity of operating imaging systems at patient sites and would make state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging available to people who do not currently have adequate medical imaging," Rubinsky said.

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