Tele-robotics enable long distance carotid ultrasound exams

Internet technology has come a long way since the days of screeching dial tones and “you’ve got mail.” The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and Rush University Medical Center in Chicago are collaborating on a new clinical trial that involves performing tele-robotic ultrasound exams over the Internet.

The trial’s goal is to see if a remote, long-distance tele-robotic ultrasound exam of the carotid artery in the neck is as good as a standard ultrasound exam at looking for carotid intima-media thickness and carotid atherosclerotic plaque, two common warnings signs of heart attacks and strokes.

"Imaging technology is evolving at a rapid pace,” said Rami Doukky, MD, MSc, professor of medicine and radiology at Rush Medical College and interim chief of cardiology at the John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County in Chicago, in a press release. “If this telehealth breakthrough proves feasible and successful it may open the door for more accessible screening, prevention, and diagnostic capabilities for patients who may be at high-risk for cardiovascular diseases.”

Over 100 participants over the age of 60, while in Chicago, received exams via small robotic arms controlled by a cardiovascular specialist in New York. The arm was outfitted with ultrasound technology and could complete a scan of the patient’s carotid artery in four minutes. The participants also received standard ultrasounds from physicians in Chicago, so the results from both cities could be compared.

This trial is not quite the first of its kind. The technology being tested, Tele-Robotic Ultrasound for Distance Imaging (TRUDI), was used by Partho P. Sengupta, MD, director of interventional echocardiography and cardiac ultrasound research and associate professor of medicine (cardiology) at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, to perform a robot-assisted trans-Atlantic ultrasound exam from Germany on a patient in Boston.

"Our successful first-in-man international experiment opened up a new frontier for the use of remote, robotic ultrasound imaging that could potentially be more efficient and cost-effective overall for healthcare delivery," Sengupta said in the press release.

Technology similar to TRUDI has also been tested in Sweden.