If you’re familiar with our Mission Accomplished section, you may already know about the many ways that NASA-funded research has translated to medical applications right here on Earth. The National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) is involved with many of these projects, including some that explore the potential benefits of ultrasound technology in spaceflight. Recently, we had the opportunity to catch up with Dr. Scott A. Dulchavsky — the principal investigator of several of these projects — about his thoughts on the exciting future of this technology.
“What’s been most rewarding for our team is not just that we’re able to refine a new technique for NASA, but also the transition back to care here on Earth in underserved areas," Dulchavsky said. His team is currently collaborating with the World Interactive Network Focused on Critical UltraSound (WINFOCUS) to train individuals to use ultrasound techniques in underserved regions such as Nicaragua.
One method of bringing ultrasound technology to underserved regions is through portable ultrasound devices. However, the inhibitory factor in this case is cost. At the moment, portable utlrasound devices are manufactured for U.S./European markets — with the corresponding price points for those markets. As capabilities improve and prices plummet, Dr. Dulchavsky is hopeful that someday, portable ultrasound devices will be as affordable as TVs and computers. In the meantime, his team has turned to tele-ultrasound as a substitute for dedicated portable ultrasound devices in these regions.
“The alternative at the moment is using the tele-ultrasound method. Most ultrasound machines currently produced don’t need additional equipment to use this method, since they have a backside outlet to pass to a monitor,” said Dulchavsky. “With Internet access, anyone can be instructed in real time to act as an ‘ultrasound robot’ and generate a diagnostic-quality ultrasound image from the equipment in place.”
Click here to read more about this project.