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U.S. Army Soldier & Biological Chemical Command
U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012

Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
(508) 233-5340

Date: September 26, 2001
No: 01-53

Mobile Digital Imaging System provides new capability to the field

Natick, Mass. --- An expandable ISO shelter system designed at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (Natick) has enabled state-of-the-art medical digital imaging equipment to move to the troops.

"This is a new capability to bring to the field," said John Roche, project engineer, about the Mobile Digital Imaging System. "The Air Force wanted to bring high-tech equipment normally only seen in a fixed facility."

Three Mobile Digital Imaging Systems were fabricated and assembled by the Mechanical Prototype Shop at Natick and delivered to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., and Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, this past year. Placed next to medical facilities, doctors and technicians are training with them in the event they need to be deployed, said Roche. Used along with TEMPER tents in a field hospital, four people can set it up and be functional in less than one hour.

Air Force personnel can use the shelter for procedures such as orthopedic and vascular surgery on wounded troops.

"It's very important for locating shrapnel wounds before (surgeons) start operating," said Bill Synder, chief of base operating support for Air Force Medical Logistics at Fort Worth, Texas. "When you have those types of injuries, you can bleed to death before reaching permanent or semi-permanent facilities. I saw people dying like that as a medic in Vietnam."

The primary piece of equipment is the C-Arm X-Ray. The C-Arm is relatively lightweight and compact for easy maneuverability inside the shelter, and can provide a 360-degree scan. A transport tie down system with a head bracket was designed and installed to stabilize it during transport. Along with the C-Arm, a workstation is included with two high-resolution monitors to view and store digital images.

A MEDRAD V Injection System has the ability to inject a dye into a patient to provide greater image contrast, and a Kodak Dry View Laser allows users to obtain X-Ray film without chemical processing. Like a laser printer, the dry view laser provides hard copies of electronic images.

A fixed imaging table was specifically designed for use with the C-Arm. The table is motor-driven, moving in three directions and rotating on three axes.

Trenches were built into the shelter floor to recess the power and data transmission cords into the floor to keep them from entangling or becoming an obstacle.

Images from the X-Ray machine appear instantly on a monitor, and the shelter is wired to transmit the digital pictures via Internet or military communication equipment to remote locations, such as a stateside hospital, to share with other doctors.

A square flange acts as a base frame to support the dry view laser, injection system and C-Arm. Two levers rotate 90 degrees to drop a set of wheels retracted inside the flange for mobility inside the shelter and collapse into the base for stability while setup or in transit. Shock isolators are included on all the major components for protection during transportation off-road, by rail, air or sea.

"It's a quick, simple way to anchor these items for transport," said Roche. "We could have fix- or hard-mounted everything, but this gives the user flexibility."

Outlets are located on each side of the container. A data access panel built into one wall consists of phone and LAN jacks, bare copper for basic communication equipment, and fiber optic connectors.

"If (medical personnel) brought a connection in or out of the shelter without that panel, they'd have to cut a hole or leave the door open," Roche said.

The expandable shelter used for this system is designed to expand on two sides to provide three times the space. Roche said the shelters are readily customized and modified for a variety of purposes. Everything that's required fits into a designated place in the compacted shelter during transportation.

The Air Force has been the only customer for the C-Arm system so far, but Roche said the item has application in other services and government agencies.

"(Federal Emergency Management Agency) could benefit from this during disaster relief," Roche said. "If an earthquake hits, you can have a whole system you can send for medical assistance."

Synder said he anticipates the Air Force will order two more of the Mobile Digital Imaging Systems.

"They did an excellent job of adapting a (commercial off-the-shelf) item," he said. "It's highly impressive that we can set up and repack the shelter so that none of the high-dollar equipment gets damaged. This is a great step ahead in field medicine."

Natick is part of the U.S. Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command (SBCCOM). For more information about SBCCOM or the Soldier Systems Center (Natick), please visit our website at