May 4, 1999 Doctors at five distant sites in the United States will demonstrate how to use NASA telemedicine to diagnose patients, practice operations and train, using 3-D medical images carried by a high-capacity computer network.
The NASA telemedicine system, to be demonstrated Tuesday at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, has potential for improving health care at the far corners of the Earth by linking remote sites with the best medical minds and facilities.
During the demonstration, physicians will use 3-D, scanned images of patients' hearts, skulls and other body parts. On computer screens, doctors at the five sites will see every procedure in stereo 3-D as each physician manipulates images of the virtual patient. The specialists will use high-fidelity, NASA-developed 3-D imaging software to analyze and discuss patients.
"We're looking at methods to bring the clinic to the patient, rather than the patient to the clinic," said Dr. Muriel Ross, leader of NASA's effort at Ames to develop care of patients from a distance. "We're supporting remote collaborations of doctors at different locations on Earth. This will prepare us to use the technology for spacecraft crews traveling to the International Space Station, Mars or other planets, where specialists may not be available."
The "Virtual Collaborative Clinic" will link physicians from the Cleveland Clinic, participating at the NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH; Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, CA; Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, Salinas, CA, interacting from the University of California, Santa Cruz; the Northern Navajo Medical Center, Shiprock, NM; and Ames. The concept and software are under development at Ames' Center for Bioinformatics.
"Cleveland Clinic will discuss a patient treated for an enlarged heart chamber," said Ross. "If you cut a piece out and make the chamber smaller, you improve the way the heart works. During the demonstration, you'll be able to see the before and after conditions in 3-D."
The Cleveland Clinic, Salinas Hospital and the Northern Navajo Medical Center will present heart work. Salinas will show an infant's defective heart beating. Stanford physician Dr. Michael Stephanides will simulate facial reconstructive surgery from Ames.
"This demonstration is being done to support remote collaborations -- to plan surgeries and to make diagnoses, and eventually even to operate from a remote site," Ross said. "Specialists could guide a general practitioner, or you could guide a robot operator on a spacecraft from a great distance."
The NASA Bioinformatics team plans to promote the development of systems for scanning patients onboard spacecraft with sonic machines. Specialists collaborating from different places on Earth could plan a medical procedure, then send it to an astronaut physician to perform.
"You could try the operation in virtual reality a number of times, storing the procedure in computer memory, and then you could use the approach that's best during the actual operation," Ross said.
"We have also talked about projecting a computer image onto the patient," Ross said. "Projected images could guide doctors during operations."
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