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Videoconferences can tweak cochlear implants. (No Repeat Hospital Visits).

Children with cochlear implants can have their hearing fine-tuned without the trauma of repeat hospital visits.

Audiologists at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have introduced videoconference technology to the postop care plans for cochlear implant patients. A child in Colombia, South America, was the first beneficiary of this technology. The medical team developed an interactive software program to adjust the parameters of the implant based on the patient's responses--visible on a video monitor--and to treat the patient in real time.

The ability to read facial expressions is helpful in adjusting the implants of children, especially those who have never heard a sound, and those who are too young to communicate well with their physicians.

This postop program, known as the "Remote Support Project," was developed by MED-EL Corp., an international Food and Drug Administration-approved producer of cochlear implants. "The tuning-up of the implant after surgery is the most important aspect of rehabilitating the children," Dr. Aristides Sismanis said.

Dr. Sismanis, a pediatrician and also professor and chairman of otolaryngology at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, who is involved in the project, explained that this application of telemedicine will spare children in remote areas the trauma of long drives to the hospital every month to fine-tune their implants during the first year after surgery.

The remote access allows children to visit a local doctor. The local doctor then logs on to a computer for a videoconference with experts who observe the child via an interactive software program and advise on the adjustment of the implants based on the child's responses to sounds.

It's especially helpful for children aged 5 years and younger. The earlier children are fitted with implants, the better they will respond, he said.

Clinics where MED-EL implant technology is currently used will be holding focus groups and teaching doctors about remote tuning of cochlear implants.

For information about MED-EL centers throughout the United States, check out www.medel.com.

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Author:Splete, Heidi
Publication:Pediatric News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2002
Words:329
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