Coordinated Care Management

February 08, 2012

Ultrasound of In-utero Baby Streamed Over Skype to Grandparents Thousands of Miles Away

Imagine this. You are on an island, far from family, and you are pregnant. In the past, the extended family would have to wait until the baby was born to actually see him.

But now, in an amazing feat of technology, an ultrasound image of a baby in-utero has been streamed via Skype to the ecstatic grandparents thousands of miles away, according to a story by Ingrid Teesalu at Estonian Public Broadcasting, originally posted at Saarte Hääl, a newspaper published in Estonia.

The Fetal Ultrasound Screening Center in Tallinn successfully streamed the pregnancy ultrasound image of Liina Maastik from the island of Saaremaa. Liina was at the appointment with her husband, Mart, according to the story.

The Maastiks, the volunteer couple in the experiment, were “sharing the sonographic image of their unborn child with their parents, Saarte Hääl reported,” according to Teesalu’s story.

Even more incredible, the image was “streamed straight from the sonography device,” according to the story, and could very well have been, according to the physician in charge of the experiment, Marek Shois, “the world's first-ever occasion of using the ultrasound imager as a web camera.”

The connection wasn’t always clear, according to Teesalu’s story, but the session itself went smoothly, Mart Maastik told Tessalu, “adding that such an option would be welcomed by thousands of people working abroad these days, who would not want to miss out on the important event for their family.”

But more such sonograms may have to wait, as Dr. Shois told Tessalu that further applications of streaming ultrasound images is still in the testing phase.

Traditionally, pregnant women go to a hospital or healthcare organization for sonograms. Ultrasound pictures are made from sound waves, which travel through the skin to focus on a certain part of the body.

Ultrasound machines pick up the sound waves as they bounce back from organs inside the body – in this case, the fetus. Ultrasounds are usually performed on pregnant women in their 20th week of pregnancy to determine whether there are problems with the fetus.

Remote ultrasounds have also been streamed over cell phones on patients with life-threatening lung diseases, according to mhealth.

Doctors reported that in all cases, the lungs could clearly be seen.

And in Scotland a healthcare provider was hooked up with a remote expert to perform a pulmonary ultrasound on a patient.

Deborah DiSesa Hirsch is an award-winning health and technology writer who has worked for newspapers, magazines and IBM in her 20-year career. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves
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