Ultrasound examinations are only performed by well-trained specialists in main clinical centres such as public hospitals, private centres, etc. Studies have demonstrated the potential use of echography or ultrasound scan to perform a quick and efficient diagnosis for many types of pathologies. Unfortunately, ultrasound experts are scarce and not always on hand when needed.
OTELO is a fully integrated end-to-end mobile tele-echography system dedicated to population groups isolated from medical facilities, either temporarily or permanently, and especially from ultrasound experts. OTELO offers an alternative to medical centres that lack ultrasound specialists. It is a portable ultrasound probe holder robotic system, associated with state of the art communications technologies, that reproduces the expert's hand movements to perform at a distance an ultrasound examination. Although being held by a non-specialised paramedic on the remote site, the robotic system brings, in real time, good ultrasound image quality back to the expert site to perform a diagnosis.
For the demonstration, the patient site was located at the Nicosia General Hospital in Cyprus. The robotic system, holding a standard ultrasound probe, was positioned on the patient and maintained by a paramedic assistant, Dr. C. Tziakouri from Nicosia General Hospital. The live demonstration was running in two parts.
During the first part, Dr. Tziakouri followed instructions given by Dr. Conxita Bru, an ultrasound specialist located in Corporaciò Sanitaria Clinic, Barcelona, Spain, to position the robot on the patient. Dr. Conxita Bru remotely controlled the robot to scan the patient as if he was next to her. A first diagnosis was successfully made on several abdominal organs using ISDN line connections with 384kb/s bandwidth.
During the second part of the tele-echography demonstration a satellite connection was estalished using Eutelsat with a 512 kb/s bandwidth between Nicosia and Tours in France. Dr. Tziakouri was this time the remote assistant of Professor Arbeille, who originated the tele-echography concept in 1995, and who was located at the University Hospital of Tours, France. Ultrasound investigations were successfully performed on both kidneys with the tele-operated robot.
The expert centres and the patient centre were all equipped with a 384 kb/s videoconference system allowing them to converse and exchange information similarly to a normal echography procedure. These tele-echography examinations took no longer than a standard ultrasound scan performed next to the patient. It showed the feasibility and reliability of this new tele-echography concept dedicated for population groups located in areas with reduced medical facilities and who will be able, thanks to the OTELO system, to access a better quality health care.