May 18, 2009
3D Ultrasound Medical Care To Remotely Aid Antarctic Research Teams
As crews spend nine months of the year cut off from the rest of civilization, Australia's Antarctic research stations are taking lessons learned from space to try to improve the diagnosis and treatment of staff in remote locations, Reuters reported.
Similar to working on a space mission, Australia's Antarctic Division operates some of the world's most remote outposts and assignments.
However, doctors dealing with a medical emergency or diagnosing a patient have difficult challenges to overcome, as evacuation is impossible during the long winter months of isolation.
But now the Royal Perth Hospital in Western Australia is working with the division to develop a set of guidelines that would increase medical care by allowing staff with minimal medical training to use newly developed 3D diagnostic ultrasound.
Project member Marilyn Zelesco, a sonographer at Royal Perth Hospital, told Reuters it is the first study that involves 3D or ultrasonic volume imaging in extreme medicine"”medical practices conducted in very remote areas.
The idea would help outpost doctors by sending patient images to be stored and then forwarded to specialists for analysis.
Jeff Ayton, the division's chief medical officer, said it isn't possible to train a generalist doctor in all facets of medical care for such remote and isolated areas.
"You would normally have a whole team of specialists who would conduct expert investigations," he added.
Ayton, who was attending an international space medicine gathering in Houston, Texas, experienced the new 3D technology firsthand when a doctor at Australia's Mawson research station in Antarctica demonstrated the equipment for the first time in a live transmission diagnosis.
Trained sonographers are traditionally required to operate and interpret ultrasound images, however it is not possible to employ such experts at the division's research stations or on missions in space.
Ayton noted the challenges of isolation and minimally trained medical and non-medical personnel in space.
He said having the ability to quickly fetch good diagnostic-quality images and send them off to someone else for assessment in an emergency situation is a great advantage.
"It frees up the generalist doctor in treating the patient," he said.
Diagnostic ultrasound is already a staple of NASA's space program.
Zelesco and Rob Hart of the Royal Perth Hospital, two of the researchers on the division's project, have even developed protocols for astronauts to use 2D ultrasound on the International Space Station.
Image Credit: mysibel.blogcu.com/
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