Scientists from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, USA say that using a handheld device or a cell phone equipped with the app OsiriX, a special medical imaging software, shows promise for accurately diagnosing acute appendicitis from remote locations.

In a study of a group of patients suspected of having acute appendicitis, researchers reviewed their computed tomography (CT) image scans over an encrypted wireless network using an iPhone G3 with the OsiriX app. Using the app, the researchers were able to correctly diagnose 124 out of 125 appendicitis cases.

"This new technology can expedite diagnosis and, therefore, treatment," Asim Choudhri, a neuroradiologist at Johns Hopkins University and lead researcher of the study said. "We knew that recent advances in handheld device technology allowed viewing of medical imaging. But it is unproven whether viewing on a small screen allows a reader to reliably and reproducibly obtain information."

Radiologists can receive an 80-image scan in one to five minutes on an iPhone, depending on the type of connection available - WiFi or 3G cellphone service, according to Choudhri.

The findings of the study could have implications for correctly diagnosing other conditions with the app, such as bleeding in the brain, or even stroke, which require quick diagnosis.

Choudhri also noted that OsiriX is not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and final diagnoses of such conditions should not be made using the iPhone technology.

OsiriX is an imaging software created by radiologists that can display and analyze a variety of medical images. The iPhone app, which is an extension of the desktop version of the application, can likewise display images from common imaging modalities, including ultrasound, CT scans, MRI and PET in the standard format used by the medical industry (DICOM). Images can also be manipulated directly on the iPhone interface.

The iPhone app is available for $19.99.

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) November 30.