This development should make life of radiologists even easier (and you thought it could not get any better for them!). Software, developed by UCLA radiologists and Siemens Medical Solutions, has been shown to be quite capable in helping to control MRIs remotely and to deliver high quality images to a clinician’s home or call room:
Here’s how it worked in the study: From his office computer, Finn, a radiologist with 15 years of experience in specialized cardiovascular MRI scanning, logged onto the password-protected program, 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.
Finn scanned 30 adult and pediatric 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 percent of the remote scans as “excellent” versus 60 percent 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.
“In 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.