NASA’s National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) has developed a computerized training method that teaches non-physicians to operate ultrasound. According to NSBRI, a number of astronauts going to the International Space Station (ISS) have already been trained with the Onboard Proficiency Enhancement training program. The ultrasound program has also been used by the Detroit Red Wings hockey team staff.
Dulchavsky [Dr. Scott A. Dulchavsky, a researcher with NSBRI’s Smart Medical Systems Team –ed.] also sees this ultrasound training method as beneficial to battlefield medics and emergency responders. Injury severity can be assessed and decisions made whether to treat injuries on site or transport to a hospital.
“With remote guidance, we virtually couple a modestly trained operator with an experienced medical expert, essentially making the non-physician the hands of the expert,” said Dulchavsky, chair of the Department of Surgery at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. “There is tremendous potential for space medicine and benefits for Earth.”
The program consists of a computer-based instructional presentation on the basics of ultrasound examination and examples of remote guidance. Remote guidance is presented in experiment-specific sections, comparable to visual case studies. “One video session walks you through basic positioning, and the next one might demonstrate how to image a bone,” Dulchavsky said.
After the computer-based instruction, trainees participate in a hands-on session where they perform abdominal and musculoskeletal ultrasound scans. A video stream from the ultrasound device is split between the on-site monitor and the remote location. Watching the simultaneous video feed, the remote medical expert can see the trainee’s ultrasound images. He or she uses voice commands to guide the operator into positioning the probe and fine-tuning the settings to produce clear, useful images. The hands-on sessions are designed to closely simulate ultrasound experiments performed in orbit.
After the initial training, ultrasound operators complete a one-hour refresher course developed by Dulchavsky’s team, called the Onboard Proficiency Enhancement (OPE) program. The OPE employs multi-media instruction similar to the original computer-based training. ISS Expedition 9 crewmembers astronaut Michael Fincke and cosmonaut Gennady Padalka completed the OPE program before doing inflight ultrasound scans of the shoulder. Dulchavsky says the program will soon be one of the medical tools used by the Detroit Tigers baseball club. In addition, the U.S. Olympic Committee recently announced a collaboration with Dulchavsky’s group to create research protocols involving Olympic athletes.
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