Not everyone has easy access to medical centres having ultrasounds, X-rays, magnetic resonance images and other medical imaging technology. But now thanks to a Hebrew University of Jerusalem researcher, a new method will make it possible to get all sorts of medical images in your hand via your cellphone.
This technique, developed by Prof. Boris Rubinsky, has the potential to provide sophisticated radiological diagnoses and treatment to the majority of the world's population lacking access to such technology, including millions in developing nations and those in rural areas of developed countries who live far from modern medical centers.
The new concept holds promise and can even replace current systems based on conventional, stand-alone medical imaging devices with a new medical imaging system consisting of two independent components connected through cellular phone technology.
According to the World Health Organization, some three-quarters of the world's population has no access to sophisticated radiological diagnoses used for a wide range of applications, from detecting tumours to confirming signs of active tuberculosis infections to monitoring the health of developing foetuses during pregnancy.
"Imaging is considered one of the most important achievements in modern medicine. Diagnosis and treatment of an estimated 20 percent of diseases would benefit from medical imaging, yet this advancement has been out of reach for millions of people in the world because the equipment is too costly to maintain. Our system would make imaging technology inexpensive and accessible for these underserved populations," said Rubinsky.
The new technology would involve an independent data acquisition device (DAD) at a remote patient site that is simple with limited controls and no image display capability to be connected via cellular phone technology with an advanced image reconstruction and hardware control multiserver unit at a central site (which can be anywhere in the world).
The cellular phone technology transmits unprocessed, raw data from the patient site DAD to the cutting- edge central facility that has the sophisticated software and hardware required for image reconstruction. This data is then returned from the central facility to the cellular phone at the DAD site in the form of an image and displayed on its screen.
"The DAD can be made with off-the-shelf parts that somebody with basic technical training can operate," noted Rubinsky.
As the image itself is produced in a centralized location and not on the measurement device, provides it the potential to make technological advances in medical imaging processing continuously available to remote areas of the world. As these areas, despite their lack of sophisticated equipment in general do have cell phone communication.
Rubinsky claimed that this new method holds major economic benefits, as it reduces the cost of medical imaging devices in general, just by simplifying the apparatus at the patient site. It also removes the need for advanced imaging training of the personnel at the patient site.
The researchers opted for electrical impedance tomography (EIT) to demonstrate the feasibility of using cell phones in medical imaging. EIT is based upon the principle that diseased tissue transmits electrical currents differently from healthy tissue. The difference in resistance from electrical currents is translated into an image, which can be transmitted via cell phone technology.
This new technique is described in the latest online issue of the journal, (PLoS ONE)Public Library of Science ONE.