Telehealth applications

Smartphone-based optical palpation: towards elastography of skin for telehealth applications

Rowan W. Sanderson, Qi Fang, Andrea Curatolo, Aiden Taba, Helen M. DeJong, Fiona M. Wood, and Brendan F. Kennedy


Smartphones are now integral to many telehealth services that provide remote patients with an improved diagnostic standard of care. The ongoing management of burn wounds and scars is one area in which telehealth has been adopted, using video and photography to assess the repair process over time. However, a current limitation is the inability to evaluate scar stiffness objectively and repeatedly: an essential measurement for classifying the degree of inflammation and fibrosis. Optical elastography detects mechanical contrast on a micrometer- to millimeter-scale, however, typically requires expensive optics and bulky imaging systems, making it prohibitive for wide-spread adoption in telehealth. More recently, a new variant of optical elastography, camera-based optical palpation, has demonstrated the capability to perform elastography at low cost using a standard digital camera. In this paper, we propose smartphone-based optical palpation, adapting camera-based optical palpation by utilizing a commercially available smartphone camera to provide sub-millimeter resolution imaging of mechanical contrast in scar tissue in a form factor that is amenable to telehealth. We first validate this technique on a silicone phantom containing a 5 × 5 × 1 mm3 embedded inclusion, demonstrating comparative image quality between mounted and handheld implementations. We then demonstrate preliminary in vivo smartphone-based optical palpation by imaging a region of healthy skin and two scars on a burns patient, showing clear mechanical contrast between regions of scar tissue and healthy tissue. This study represents the first implementation of elastography on a smartphone device, extending the potential application of elastography to telehealth.

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