NASA last Friday announced an experiment titled “Advanced Diagnositic Ultrasound in Microgravity,” which involves crewmembers onboard a space shuttle conducting ultrasound exams on one another as they are instructed from a radiologist on the ground.
According to the announcement, “Crews traveling beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO) need the telemedicine strategies this experiment investigates, should injury or illness occur in space. There are also widespread Earth applications for emergencies and rural care situations.”
The experiment will test the accuracy of telehealth in a “novel clinical situation” as well as determine how nonmedical personnel can learn to use medical devices without the assistance of an onside medical professional.
The experiment requires two crewmembers onboard the shuttle, as well a ground-based personnel, to use two-way audio and visual links in order to communicate and view each ultrasound. According to NASA, these two-way communications will operate in a private mode to ensure the patients privacy. The crewmember conducting the ultrasound will use an HRF laptop, ultrasound keyboard, monitor and probes. The scans will last between 20 and 50 minutes, with the duration lasting around two hours.
According to the announcement, NASA hopes the experiment will demonstrate that the minimal training, along with audio guidance from a certified sonographer, can produce ultrasound imagery of diagnostic quality.