Newly emerging technologies in the areas of telemedicine and high speed ultrasound are likely to completely change the treatment methods for soldiers injured in combat action. The United States Department of Defense recently decided to grant the Lerner Research Institute at Cleveland Clinic a three year funding of over $3 million. At Lerner's Department of Biomedical Engineering, a team of five researchers for the first time will develop a three-dimensional ultrasound system for medical corpsmen to apply both in field hospitals and in combat conditions.
Currently existing ultrasound equipment is slightly inadequate for constant transportation in active battle circumstances. The scanning itself constitutes a very time-consuming process while the expertise needed for accurate diagnosis requires long years of training and experience. The awarded design proposed by the Lerner team will combine telemedicine with high speed medical scanning techniques. As a result, medical corpsmen will be able to transmit internal images of injured soldiers to expert physicians in remote hospitals for immediate diagnosis.
Surgeons in field hospitals will also benefit from the high speed ultrasound device, allowing them to detect shrapnel in the most fast and accurate way. Whether the patient has incurred a trauma in a combat or in a normal life situation, the quick localization of the injury as well as its precise extent is of vital importance to plan and implement the right treatment, according to Dr. J. Frederick Cornhill, the project director and chairman of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. At present, there is no ultrasound system available for the immediate collection and interpretation of patient images.
The latest developments in telemedicine allow the army doctors to transfer patient scans to distant hospitals without any loss of image clarity in order to have them fast and accurately diagnosed by trained physicians. The 3D ultrasound project therefore has to meet two essential requirements. First, the portable scanner should be able to collect 3D images at a speed which 40 to 80 times surpasses the speed of the current equipment. Second, the research team has to design software tools for efficient image manipulation and analysis at the remote location.
Ideally, the medical corpsman would only have to put a small probe on the patient's body. By means of real time two-dimensional images, he would be able to find the exact position. At this moment, the probe can start to collect the 3D images for subsequent transmission to a specialized hospital for fast analysis. The complete transaction would only take a few minutes, as stated by Dr. Cornhill. One can easily imagine a similar use of the 3D ultrasound system by a civilian emergency team of paramedics or medical technicians. This would allow the physicians to diagnose the exact impact of the patient's injuries before his actual arrival in the emergency room.
The principal investigators for the 3D ultrasound project include Dr. Kimerly Powell and Dr. Geoff Lockwood, who are both attached to Cleveland Clinic's Department of Biomedical Engineering. The two researchers will be assisted by Dr. Steven Gaverick of Case Western Reserve University, Dr. Clyde Oakley of the Tetrad Corporation, and by Dr. Raj Shekhar of the Cleveland Clinic. You can find more information about this unique initiative, which combines the obvious advantages of telemedicine with high speed medical scanning at the web site of the Cleveland Clinic.