par Lynn Shapiro
, Writer | February 18, 2009
Qin is currently conducting clinical evaluations of the diagnostic part of the technology. The mobile device runs off of a laptop computer, and an image of the heel or wrist can be completed in about five minutes. Also under development is the capability to scan the knee and hip.
Meanwhile, the group is continuing development of the therapeutic portion of the technology. On Earth, it takes six weeks to heal a fracture in normal conditions. The healing process may take longer in space. He said the device will help accelerate fracture healing by stimulating bone regeneration.
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Ultrasound has been used to heal fractures, but it has not been effective due to its lack of accuracy at the fracture site. This is where Qin's guided approach will be beneficial. "We are trying to use ultrasound technology as a way to get an image of the fracture site," Qin said. "An integrated probe will directly shoot ultrasound into the region of the fracture. We hope this will result in effective acceleration of fracture healing."
SCAN technology will be an ideal tool for health care providers on Earth who are dealing with an increasing elderly population and for those in rural areas where access to medical facilities is limited. In addition to being small and easier to use than X-ray based bone density measurement machines, the ultrasound device could be as much as 10-times cheaper to purchase and operate. "If we can provide a cost-effective, easy to operate machine at the doctor's office, then they can monitor patients at minimal cost," Qin said. "Also, it is non-invasive and non-destructive. People are not hesitant to get additional tests."
Qin's project is one of nine currently in the NSBRI Smart Medical Systems and Technology Team's portfolio devoted to developing new integrated medical systems to assist in delivering quality health care in space. Other areas being researched include space surgery and supporting techniques, routine risk and health-monitoring systems, and automated systems and devices to aid in decision-making, training and diagnosis. The new systems will have immediate benefits for health care on Earth.
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