Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) is considered by clinical experts to be a suitable imaging procedure for COVID-19. With these images, accentuated restrictions in/damage to the lungs can be detected and analyzed further. However, ultrasound (U/S) imaging data is more difficult to interpret than, e.g., CT images. This plays a special role particularly in the current crisis, since POCUS is often not performed by medical staff that has been specially trained in analyzing the images. On the other hand, the current workload of this group limits the amount of time available for a detailed and quantitative analysis of the U/S imaging data, which is essential for examining pathologies under treatment. Computer-assisted analysis can take on some of this analytical work, derive objective parameters from the U/S imaging data and make them easier to interpret and usable for treatment.
U/S machines are mobile and can be used at the point of care without trouble. For this reason and due to its real-time capability, U/S is good for monitoring changes in lung inflammation under treatment, especially in bedridden ICU patients. Since, in principle, only the head of the ultrasoudn probe comes in contact with a patient, sterilizing a machine after it is used is easy. The German Society of Ultrasound in Medicine (DEGUM) has released a proposal for a standardized lung U/S protocol for COVID-19.
Fraunhofer IGD is working on a software platform for COVID-19 that provides solutions for analyzing and classifying U/S imaging data in accordance with DEGUM guidelines. This can offer direct benefits in the current acute stage of the crisis -- reducing the time needed for analysis and eliminating the need for special training -- while also opening research, especially in relation to U/S imaging data during treatment, up to the possibility of learning much from the current data on the first wave of infections in order to be as well-prepared as possible for the next waves.
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