Software to perform MRI scans online by remote control
31 October 2006
Software that enables an off-site medical imaging
expert to log onto a personal computer and operate a magnetic resonance
imaging (MRI) machine by remote control has been developed jointly by UCLA
radiologists and Siemens Medical Solutions.
A study of the software,
reported in the November issue of Radiology, found that the quality
of the remote scans were superior to onsite scans by a less experienced
radiologist. The software could give imaging departments with limited
medical staff and expertise access to more skilled radiologists.
patients require specialized scans that not all technologists are familiar
with, so we set up a software program that enables us to run the MRI machine
from a remote location," said lead author Dr. J. Paul Finn, chief of
diagnostic cardiovascular imaging and professor of radiological sciences at
the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "A more skilled technologist
can log on from a personal computer and perform the exam via remote
The program provides access to specialized MRI skills wherever
they are needed — even if that expertise is not available where the MRI
machine and patient are located.
To conduct the study, Dr Finn, a
radiologist with 15 years of experience in specialized cardiovascular MRI
scanning, logged onto the password-protected program on his office computer,
input all imaging parameters and controlled the MRI scanner during the exam.
Half a mile away at UCLA Medical Center, an onsite technologist provided the
patient with instructions, monitored patient safety and, if needed, injected
contrast dye to define blood vessels and yield a better picture.
scanned 30 adult and paediatric patients from his office. Another 30
age-matched controls underwent traditional MRI scans by an onsite
technologist at the hospital. The same MRI machine was used for all scans.
In a blind comparison, UCLA cardiovascular radiologists evaluated the
images for definition and quality. They rated 90% of the remote scans as
"excellent" versus 60% of the onsite scans. An additional 50 patients
scanned with the remote-control technique after the study was accepted for
publication also resulted in excellent images.
"If our results become
widely applicable, they may offer important implications for the use of
specialized MRI techniques in patient care, clinical research and
technologist training, particularly in places with limited medical
resources," said Finn.
The study featured some of the most demanding scans conducted at UCLA
Medical Center, including scans of children and infants born with heart
disorders. Finn's team reasoned that technologists performing these tests
might require specialized assistance the most.
These types of diagnostic
scans are among the most complex currently undertaken with MRI, suggesting
that the findings can be generalized to non-cardiac MRI studies.
collaboration with Siemens, UCLA has already established interstate and
transatlantic remote-control connectivity, and initial results are very
promising," said Finn. "As the Internet's speed and reliability increases,
it seems inevitable that distance will pose no barrier to the global
application of this technology."
Finn emphasizes that the same technology
could be applied to computed tomography (CT) — especially for use in an
emergency setting, such as a natural disaster or on the battlefield. Such
events can overwhelm local resources, where technologists trained in
specialized imaging techniques may be hard to find.
Source: University of
California Los Angeles.