Feb 2, 2022 RWJ University Hospital and Rutgers RWJ Medical School Deploy First FDA-Approved Clinical Robotic Tele-Cardiac Ultrasound Technology in the United States

Successful Transatlantic Cardiac Sonogram Testing Offers View into the Future of Remote-enabled Heart Care

New Brunswick Sonogram

(New Brunswick, NJ) - The future of cardiac imaging arrived at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH), an RWJBarnabas Health facility, and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS) last week via special delivery from France. The MELODY™ robotic tele-cardiac ultrasound technology is the first of its kind deployed in the United States for clinical use, and opens the door for providing patients with more access to expert diagnostic imaging in a convenient, telehealth delivery model.

The MELODY™ robotic tele-ultrasound system features a robotic arm, an ultrasound machine and video conferencing technology that connects the patient with an expert at two separate locations. Last week, experts in Naveil, France connected the system to the RWJUH and RWJMS Cardiovascular team, led by Partho Sengupta, MD, FACC, in New Brunswick, NJ. The team tested the limits of the system by performing several hours of trans-Atlantic diagnostic ultrasound imaging in real time over a routine 4G cellular network.

This system is being successfully used in Europe and Canada and has been approved for clinical use in the US by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The technology benefits patients through:

  • Improved access to diagnostic ultrasound imaging expertise in real time
  • Facilitation of earlier disease detection
  • Reduced travel times and transport costs

Benefits to health care professionals are significant and include:

  • Reduction in work-related injury from overuse and repetitive movements from manual ultrasound imaging delivery
  • Addressing the chronic shortage of ultrasound technologists and sonographers in health care today, nationwide
  • Reduction in exposure of providers to infectious diseases such as COVID-19 or influenza, or to radiation when the study is performed in the catheterization laboratory

Whereas the first MELODY™ robot in the US is located at RWJUH right now, experts envision the day when such technology is commonplace in rural community hospitals, pharmacies, rehabilitation facilities or even senior living locations.

According to Dr. Sengupta, who is the Henry Rutgers Professor of Cardiology and Chief of the Division of Cardiology at RWJMS, and Chief of Cardiology at RWJUH, and a member of the Combined Medical Group of RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers Health, making advanced diagnostic imaging capabilities available to patients in remote locations may prove to be a gamechanger in the fight against cardiovascular disease and toward reducing the impact of “health care deserts” emerging in small towns due to staff shortages.

“Imagine that a patient comes to an Emergency Department in the middle of the night and there are no sonographers present to perform the imaging exam that he or she needs,” Dr. Sengupta explains. “In the very near future, we can connect with a sonographer at another hospital or from their home to perform a cardiac ultrasound exam that could be lifesaving.”

Dr. Sengupta says he will combine this technology with new Artificial Intelligence (AI) cardiovascular diagnostic capabilities to advance cardiac care.

“Many cardiovascular diseases remain undetected for a long time and can be silent killers,” Dr. Sengupta notes. “Combining robotic tele-ultrasound technology with new and existing AI capabilities will provide us with a tremendous opportunity for early detection and treatment of cardiovascular disease in our communities and help us save lives.”

RWJUH and RWJMS clinicians along with representatives from AdEcho Tech, the MELODY™ system’s manufacturer, performed the successful transatlantic robotic cardiac tele-ultrasound test on January 24, 2022. The test was followed the next day by successful ultrasounds at RWJUH. Over the next two months, the team will work with sonographers to implement the technology for clinical care in order to make it available to the public later this year.

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH), an RWJBarnabas Health Facility, is a 614-bed academic medical center that serves as the principal teaching hospital of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the flagship Cancer Hospital of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Its Centers of Excellence include cardiovascular care from minimally invasive heart surgery to transplantation, cancer care, stroke care, neuroscience, orthopedics, bariatric surgery and women’s and children’s care including The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (www.bmsch.org). A Level 1 Trauma Center and the first designated Pediatric Trauma Center in the state, RWJUH’s New Brunswick campus serves as a national resource in its ground-breaking approaches to emergency preparedness. Learn more at www.rwjbh.org/newbrunswick

As one of the nation’s leading comprehensive medical schools, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in education, research, health care delivery, and the promotion of community health. Part of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School encompasses 20 basic science and clinical departments, and hosts centers and institutes including The Cardiovascular Institute, the Child Health Institute of New Jersey, and the Women's Health Institute. The medical school has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as among the top 100 medical schools in the nation and No. 1 in the state for research and primary care.

Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, an RWJBarnabas Health facility and the medical school's principal affiliate, comprise one of the nation's premier academic medical centers. Clinical services are provided by more than 500 faculty physicians in 200+ specialties and subspecialties as part of Rutgers Health, the clinical arm of Rutgers University.

The medical school maintains educational programs at the undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate levels on its campuses in New Brunswick and Piscataway, and provides continuing education courses for health care professionals and community education programs. To learn more about Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, visit rwjms.rutgers.edu. Find us online at: www.Facebook.com/RWJMedicalSchool and www.twitter.com/RWJMS.