Despite advances in miniaturization and automation, the need for expert acquisition of a full echocardiogram, including Doppler, has restricted access in remote areas. Recent developments in robotics, teleoperation, and upgraded telecommunications infrastructure may provide a solution to this deficiency. Robot-assisted teleoperated ultrasound examination can aid medical diagnosis in remote locations and may improve health inequalities between rural and urban settings. This review aimed to analyze the status of teleoperated robotic systems for ultrasound examinations, evaluate clinical and preclinical applications, identify limitations, and outline future directions for clinical use. Overall, robot-assisted teleoperated ultrasound is feasible and safe in the reported clinical and preclinical studies, with the robots able to follow the hand movements performed by sonographers and researchers from a distance or in local networks. Moreover, multiple types of ultrasound examinations have been performed in remote areas, with a high success rate nearly comparable to that of conventional sonography. The studies showed that although a low-bandwidth link can be used to control a robot, the bandwidth requirements for real-time transmission of video and ultrasound images are significantly higher. Furthermore, if haptic feedback is implemented, the bandwidth requirements are increased. Haptically enabled systems that improve robotic control are necessary for accelerating the introduction to clinical use. Haptic feedback and enhanced front-end interface control for remote users are vital aspects required for clinical application. The incorporation of artificial intelligence through either aiding in window acquisition (knowledge of anatomical landmarks to adjust scanning planes) or through measurement and disease identification is yet to be researched. However, it has the potential to lead to dramatic advances. A new generation of robots is in development, and several projects in the preclinical stage reveal a promising future to overcome the shortage of health professionals in remote areas.
Keywords: robotics; tele-echography; telemedicine; telerobotics; ultrasound imaging.
Copyright © 2023 American College of Cardiology Foundation. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.