Computer engineers at Washington University in St. Louis are bringing the minimalist approach to medical care and computing by coupling USB-based ultrasound probe technology with a smartphone, enabling a compact, mobile computational platform and a medical imaging device that fits in the palm of a hand.
William D. Richard, Ph.D., Washington University Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, and David Zar, Washington University Research Associate in Computer Science and Engineering, have made commercial USB ultrasound probes compatible with Microsoft Windows Mobile-based smartphones, thanks to a $100,000 grant Microsoft awarded the two in 2008. In order to make commercial USB ultrasound probes work with smartphones, the researchers had to optimize every aspect of probe design and operation, from power consumption and data transfer rate to image formation algorithms. As a result, it is now possible to build smartphone-compatible USB ultrasound probes for imaging the kidney, liver, bladder, and eyes, endocavity probes for prostate and uterine screenings and biopsies, and vascular probes for imaging veins and arteries for starting IVs and central lines.
Both medicine and global computer use will never be the same.
"You can carry around a probe and cell phone and image on the fly now," said Richard. "Imagine having these smartphones in ambulances and emergency rooms." "On a larger scale, this kind of cell phone is a complete computer that runs Windows. It could become the essential computer of the Developing World, where trained medical personnel are scarce, but most of the population, as much as 90 percent, have access to a cell phone tower." "Twenty-first century medicine is defined by medical imaging," said Zar. "Yet 70 percent of the world's population has no access to medical imaging. It's hard to take an MRI or CT scanner to a rural community without power."
Shrinking the electronics over 25 years
|Contact: William D. Richard|
Washington University in St. Louis