Just two years ago, a pregnancy ultrasound for a mother in Stony Rapids could mean an expensive and multi-day trip to Saskatoon. Today, a research team at the SHA is testing a novel telerobotic ultrasound technology that allows prenatal ultrasounds done at the local health care facility. While a ward clerk holds a special frame, a sonographer in Saskatoon controls remotely the ultrasound probe and checks on baby’s progress. It takes about 20 minutes.
Ultrasounds using robotics are now available to pregnant women in three northern Saskatchewan locations. Photo courtesy Dr. Ivar Mendez
“Our research is showing the ultrasounds done via robotics are just as good as those done in person,” says Dr. Ivar Mendez, Provincial Surgery Head for the Saskatchewan Health Authority. “It’s the same as having the sonographer at your bedside, and our patients appreciate not having to travel long distances.”
It’s the only system of its kind in North America, and the only one in the world to offer prenatal ultrasounds. It is available in Stony Rapids, LaLoche and Pelican Narrows.
Thanks to a generous donation to the Royal University Hospital Foundation by Leslie and Irene Dube to acquire the state-of-the-art technology, a multidisciplinary team that included Drs. Scott Adams, Paul Babyn, Brent Burbridge and Dr. Mendez initiated the remote ultrasound project.
Mendez started the robotics program in Saskatchewan about five years ago. In collaboration with Drs. Tanya Holt and Veronica McKinney, their first project was to provide virtual care to
children in the north. Prenatal ultrasounds were the second because it was identified as the next greatest need.
Feedback from patients has been very positive. According to a survey, 97 per cent of the patients are happy to be able to receive their ultrasound at home and are thankful that the technology has been brought to their home community.