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Validation of fetal telemedicine as a new obstetric imaging technique

      Abstract

      Objective: Our purpose was to establish whether obstetric ultrasonography interpreted by a live video telemedicine link is comparable to interpretation by videotape review in a low-risk patient population. Study design: An Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN 6) was established from three satellite offices to our central prenatal diagnostic center. Patients seen at these satellite offices had a complete fetal anatomic survey recorded onto videotape by a trained ultrasonographer. A live interactive video telemedicine link was then established to our center by the digital network, and a perinatologist directed the ultrasonographer through the anatomy survey. Subsequently a different perinatologist, blinded to the telemedicine interpretation, reviewed the videotaped examination. The reports from the videotaped and telemedicine scans were then compared on the basis of a score of 33 anatomic items. Results: The first 200 patients seen at the satellite offices were included. Telemedicine and videotape interpretations provided similar scores in 84% of scans. In 17 of the 33 anatomic categories telemedicine provided significantly better scores than videotape, whereas in the remaining 16 anatomic categories the scores were equivalent. More videotape than telemedicine examinations required repeat ultrasonography because of suboptimal imaging (10% vs 3%, p = 0.003). Conclusions: The interpretation of obstetric ultrasonography with use of live video telemedicine is comparable to videotape review. Fetal telemedicine may prove to be a useful tool for providing ultrasonographic interpretation of fetal anatomy to a network of low-risk obstetric practices.

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