News | October 05, 2010

Study Shows Telemedicine Can Identify Heart Problems in Children

October 5, 2010 – Rapid electronic review of children’s heart images by remote specialists can allow for earlier diagnosis and treatment of potentially serious pediatric heart problems. A new study by researchers from Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics found that telemedicine can help children who are far from a specialized medical center.

The study was presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in San Francisco.

Researchers looked at 11 years of data on first-time pediatric echocardiograms performed at St. John's Medical Center in Joplin, Mo., and transmitted to pediatric heart specialists at Children's Mercy 160 miles away, between April 1998 and October 2009.

More than 70 percent of the echocardiograms were ordered due to the local physician hearing a heart murmur. Nearly three-quarters were determined by Children's Mercy specialists to be normal.

Of the 905 echocardiograms evaluated, only 15 (1.7 percent) resulted in a transfer to Children's Mercy for treatment.

"Satellite heart imaging labs like the one evaluated in this study can give parents fast access to pediatric expertise they might not otherwise have, and that can often be reassuring," said Seiji Ito, M.D., resident at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, and co-author of the study. "This study helps illustrate how telemedicine can save families significant worry, time and expense. It alleviates the need to make appointments with an unfamiliar doctor in a city far away, and endure a lengthy road trip that ultimately could prove to be unnecessary."

Telemedicine involves the use communication technology to share health information among physicians or between physicians and patients. During the study, the method of transmission evolved from videotape over integrated services digital network (ISDN), to digital studies transmitted over the internet.

For more information: www.childrens-mercy.org

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