Telemedicine from Nagasaki to Chernobyl

The children’s thyroid ultrasound digital images have been successfully transferred from the Gomel Regional Specialized Dispensary, Belarus, to Nagasaki University School of Medicine, Japan, using Inmarsat B satellite communication system since February, 1999. During the past 8 years, we have been working with Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation (SMHF) and The World Health Organization (WHO), carrying out a number of projects aimed at humanitarian assistance in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, the countries most affected by the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant Accident. Medical examination of about 210,000 children performed within the framework of the WHO International Programme on the Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident (IPHECA)1 and Chernobyl Sasakawa Project2 in the three countries since 1991 have shown a significant increase in the incidence of childhood thyroid diseases including thyroid cancer. This is particularly evident in the Gomel region of Belarus, where thyroid cancer incidence is 100 times higher than before the accident. Therefore SMHF has decided to continue the humanitarian aid, using a modern technology and scientific approach, which is closely linked with the development of a joint project with WHO, entitled “Medical relief for children affected by the Chernobyl accident through the development and implementation of health telematics.” The Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports has also supported the establishment of the basis of computer network system in Nagasaki. There are still many problems around Chernobyl, which show the remoteness of many residents from medical centers, the inadequacy of modern communication facilities between primary, regional and national health care facilities, the insufficient opportunities for training and education of local medical staff, and lack of medicines and information about progress in medical practice, particularly at the primary health care level in Belarus. Since we have found 2-5% abnormal thyroid ultrasound images from the children screened to be abnormal, medical data have been sent weekly from Gomel to Nagasaki and the comments and further recommendation sent back simultaneously from Nagasaki to Gomel. The quantitative and qualitative analysis of images have been performed to facilitate an accurate diagnosis by double checking system. The application of health telematics technology can promote the involvement of qualified experts at national and international levels in strengthen of a local health care system and education of medical staff around Chernobyl and eventually improve the prognosis and quality of life of the patients with childhood thyroid cancer.
  1. Souchkevitch GN and Tsyb AF (eds): World Health Organization. Health consequences of the Chernobyl accident; results of the IPHECA pilot project ad related national programmes. WHO Geneva, Scientific Report 1996, p1-519
  2. Yamashita S and Shibata Y (eds): Chernobyl A Decade. Excerpta Medica ICS, 1156, Amsterdam, 1997, p1-613
This article is cited from “Telemedicine from Nagasaki to Chernobyl. Thyroid 9:969, 1999”