Ultrasound imaging is currently used as a primary diagnostic tool in cardiology, abdominal disorders, pulmonary medicine, trauma, and obstetrics. Because of its relatively low capital and operating costs as well as its growth potential, it represents one of the major diagnostic, modalities of future health care. However, the use of ultrasonography as a mobile and powerful modality is controlled by the availability of a highly skilled technician to acquire the images and an experienced physician to interpret them. This paper discusses the technology required to increase the availability of a diagnosing physician by employing telerobotics. With this technology, the physician can guide the motion of the transducer by the technician from a remote location. Thus, the physician controls the examination and renders the diagnosis. It is shown that communication lines at 1.5 Mbits/s (T-1 speed) can, with appropriate compression, support both real-time viewing of the ultrasound images and telerobotic manipulation of the transducer. The incremental costs of telediagnosis for an examination are estimated to be a small fraction of the base changes and significantly less than the expense of bringing a physician to a remote location or transporting a patient to a regional medical center. Telediagnosis can, in addition, provide benefits from immediate interpretation and consultation that cannot be duplicated using store-and-forward scenarios.
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