Diagnosing medical issues in space can be challenging. Traditional imaging devices like MRI and CAT Scan are much too large, heavy and energy-hungry for practical use on existing spacecraft. Alternately, compact and low-power ultrasound promises to be the diagnostic tool of choice for future human space missions.
In 2000, NASA approached Dr. Scott Dulchavsky of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit to develop medical ultrasound remote diagnostic techniques for use by non-expert astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The goal was to create the basis for an operational telemedicine capability for future advanced space missions.
Dr. Scott Dulchavsky, chair of the Department of Surgery at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, was the principal investigator of the Advanced Diagnostic Ultrasound in Microgravity (ADUM) experiment, which was flown on the ISS. Using novel training tools, Dulchavsky’s team was able to train non-expert astroanuts to use remotely guided ultrasound to obtain a wide variety of diagnostic-quality medical images. Experts on the ground received these diagnostic-quality images from the ISS through satellite downlink, demonstrating the effectiveness of ultrasound as a multipurpose, remote diagnostic tool in space.
Bouyed by the successes in space, Dulchavsky’s team decided to deploy the technique on Earth; teaming with Henry Ford Hospital, and Wyle engineers to develop cost-effective, technologically viable methods for sending ultrasound scans over long distances on Earth without loss of image quality. They collaborated with Epiphan Systems Inc., a computer-imaging industry leader with offices in Springfield, New Jersey. The cooperation resulted in the formation of MediphanTM, a remote medical diagnostics technology company. Mediphan has developed and commercialized two tools for terrestrial telemedicine use. DistanceDocTM, an external video frame grabber, allows a remote ultrasound operator to transmit images securely over the Internet in real time and at near-original resolution. The second tool, MedRecorderTM, is a similar device that captures diagnostic-quality images and archives them for later reference. A non-expert can, with minimal know-how, install Mediphan’s technology and use it to send medical images to distant experts.
Using DistanceDoc or MedRecorder does not require highly specialized electronic wiring or extensive cabling of work areas, and uses the medical institution’s established IT infrastructure to connect to and collaborate with any consulting expert desired by the operating surgeon.
Additionally, the organization of this system is highly adaptable to a diverse array of situations, with increased implementation convenience and portability over previous methods and practices. By streaming the video over the Internet, it has potential to be accessed by technology ranging from lecture hall projectors to desktop workstations to personal digital assistants and smart phones.
Mediphan technologies enable the cost-effective application of telemedicine solutions, created by Dr. Dulchavsky’s team and NASA for spaceflight, to better life on Earth, especially in developing countries around the world.