Robotic-assisted ultrasound becoming a reality
For the study, the researchers used a small, lightweight robotic arm with built-in ultrasound technology in Boston and connected it to a personal computer with a low-bandwidth Internet connection in Munich, Germany. They were able to perform the ultrasound exam on the patient’s carotid artery in four minutes.
Sengupta said that when the technology becomes widely used in clinical practice, it will bring considerable benefits to health care. “The delay in the diagnosis leads to more morbidity and maybe more utilization of other resources,” he said. “If you have a more prompt identification of a problem, it may reduce the time of recovery.”
Physicians spend a lot of time trying to come to a diagnostic conclusion — 70 to 80 percent of the time they are struggling to get the right decision and 20 to 30 percent of the time they are explaining the therapeutic options to the patients, said Sengupta.
But with this technology, that will change. “Now having an accelerating time to the diagnosis will allow more time spent for understanding the right options and personalizing the therapeutic options for the patient for different scenarios,” said Sengupta.
The technology will also give parts of the world access to ultrasound that didn’t have it before. “Ultrasound is only accessible to 5 percent of the population worldwide,” said Sengupta. “If you think globally, there is a disparity.”
He said that robotic ultrasound imaging is very cost-effective so there might be rapid utilization of the technology all across the world.
In emergency situations when an expert is not at the ER or trauma sites, the technology comes in handy. “There are multiple places where having a robotic arm will allow a connectivity to be established from the onsite caretaking team to an expert that is offsite,” said Sengupta.
The robotic arm can help the ultrasound stenographers who get fatigue and cramps from holding the probes for long periods of time. “They can have that robotic arm as an extension, to have more precision by holding the probe in place for a long period of time,” said Sengupta.
Right now, the researchers are enrolling patients in another study involving the technology. It will be the first U.S. trial and the technology will be used between Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
Sengupta said that it will take about one to two years for the technology to become commercialized and readily available for clinical use.