Telemedicine in vascular surgery: Does it work?

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35 Scopus citations


Telemedicine (TM) using closed-circuit television systems allows specialists to evaluate patients at remote sites. Because an integral part of the vascular examination involves palpation of peripheral pulses the applicability of TM for the evaluation of vascular surgery patients is open to question. This study was carried out to test the hypothesis that TM is as effective as direct patient examination for the development of a care plan in vascular patients. Sixty-four vascular evaluations were done in 32 patients. The patients presented with a variety of vascular problems and were seen in regularly scheduled rural outreach vascular clinics. Two faculty vascular surgeons evaluated each patient; one was on site and the second, using TM, remained at the medical center. Each surgeon was blinded to the other's findings. The TM physician was aided by a nonphysician assistant, who obtained blood pressures, utilized a continuous-wave Doppler probe, positioned the patient, and operated the TM equipment. The results of each surgeon's evaluations were compared. Patient and physician satisfaction with the TM evaluation was appraised by questionnaires. Eight patients were seen for initial evaluations; 24 patients were seen for follow-up visits. Patients were seen with a variety of diagnoses, including aneurysm (seven), cerebrovascular disease (five), lower extremity occlusive disease (13), multiple vascular problems (three), and other disease (four). The average duration for the TM and on-site evaluations were 20.6 ± 1.4 and 19.0 ± 1.3 minutes, respectively (P = not significant). Physician concordance, as determined by treatment recommendations, was the same in 29 (91%) patients. Physician confidence in the ability to obtain an accurate history via TM was rated as excellent in 97 per cent; confidence in the TM physical examination was rated as excellent in 70 per cent. All patients rated the TM evaluation as the "same as" or "better than" the on-site examination, and all indicated a preference for being seen locally using TM as opposed to traveling to a regional medical center. We conclude that the TM evaluation of vascular patients is accurate and is as effective as on-site evaluations for a variety of vascular problems. Important adjuncts to enhance the success of a TM evaluation are physician experience with the technology and the presence of a knowledgeable on-site assistant. This technology can be easily adapted to other clinical situations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-340
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Surgeon
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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