Project Details

An African mother with a child in a sling on her back

Imaging The World

Using novel ultrasound techniques to improve healthcare anywhere with a phone signal.

Project URL:
Project Twitter: @imagingtheworld

  • Health
  • Internet
  • Mobile
  • Physical Computing

In the early 1990s, radiologist Dr. Kristen DeStigter took a revolutionary medical technology to remote villages on the border between Kenya and Sudan: ultrasound. DeStigter had travelled there to research a parasitic disease but she soon found her magical ultrasound machine was being used to diagnose a wide variety of conditions, including life-threatening complications in pregnancy. She returned from that trip determined to find a way to develop a portable, low-cost ultrasound machine that could be used in the poorest communities in the world. The search took her almost two decades.

By the late 1990s, DeStigter had a portable ultrasound prototype which she took to Honduras after Hurricane Mitch as part of a medical outreach team. But though the machine itself was portable there was still a drawback. It needed a skilled technician to operate it and a specialist doctor to make sense of the results.

The breakthrough came in 2007 when DeStigter began working with Dr. Brian Garra, a specialist in digital signal processing who had been promoting a new technique called voluming scanning. Volume scans take many more images as the transducer is swept across a patient’s body. As a result volume scanners do not need a skilled operator: someone with basic training can generate a usable image.

Yet Garra and DeStigter still had an unresolved problem: how to get those images analysed by a specialist. The solution, they hope, will come from the mobile phone. By connecting the ultrasound to a mobile they believe they should be able to send the images to any one of a thousand specialists in the world to provide a diagnosis.

Imaging the World is the organisation DeStigter and Garra have created, to take this low-cost health technology to the world, using novel ultrasound techniques and the internet, to make the most sophisticated diagnostic techniques available to anywhere there is a phone signal.

The system is being trialled in Uganda, with plans to spread from there to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa and on to India and China.

Image 'Mother and child in Africa' courtesy of AIDSVaccine

Last updated: 09th of May, 2014

Cookies on the Social Tech Guide

Social Tech Guide uses cookies to provide you with an enhanced user experience. To remove this message, please click continue.

Continue Learn more