Remote-controlled ultrasound systems allowing expert radiologists to perform long-distance examinations

“Smaller secondary hospitals do not necessarily have expert radiologists available on site,” explains ESA biomedical engineer Arnaud Runge. “This in the past has led to problems, with for instance, pregnant women having to travel hundreds of kilometres for an examination”. The TESSA (Tele-Echography for ESA) technology was originally developed over a series of ESA projects with the intent to support astronauts in orbit. “But whether for Earth- or space-based patients, the abiding principle of telemedicine is the same: it is much easier and cheaper to move medical data around than it is to move people” says Arnaud. AdEchoTech, a company based in Vendôme in central France, is reusing the knowledge gained during past ESA telemedicine projects to market a remote-controlled ultrasound system allowing an expert radiologist to perform exams on patients from hundreds or even thousands of kilometres away. The company has marketed this ‘tele-echography’ system to more than 15 hospitals and health institutes in France and abroad, with others participating in trials. ESA meanwhile is currently looking into a follow-on project with the company to design a more lightweight and streamlined version of the system’s robotic arm, potentially suitable for launch into orbit, which would also broaden terrestrial market opportunities. The technology would similarly be suitable for use in any remote location – from cruise ships to prisons – using either internet or satellite links. ESA recently completed a trial with four European defence ministries, making the technology available to military garrisons based in Lebanon and Afghanistan. The tele-echography technology has also been tested successfully on oil platforms off West Africa and inland clinics in French Guiana.

Asia Pacific
TESSA (Tele-Echography for ESA)
Technology Transfer
Philip Raitt; Cornelis Eldering