iPads are just as effective as traditional workstations for radiologists reading MRI and CT scans in emergency situations, according to new research published in the Journal of Digital Imaging.

Researchers from Changi General Hospital in Singapore theorized that tablet computers such as the iPad could hold lots of potential for radiologists, because they could fill the need for a lightweight, portable wireless device that would allow radiologists to review images remotely.

The iPad could provide radiologists with advantages over laptops (bulky with low-battery life) and smartphones (small screen size), according to the researchers.

To test their theory, the researchers compared readings made by three radiologists on iPads to readings on traditional Picture Archival and Communication Systems (PACS) workstations – and their findings bode well for radiologists who are iPad enthusiasts.

“Our results suggest that emergency conditions commonly encountered on CT and MRI can be diagnosed using tablet computers with good agreement with dedicated PACS workstations,” the report states.

Dr. Frank Seidelmann, chief innovation officer with radiology company Radisphere National Radiology Group, said the convenience and mobility offered by the iPad can be helpful to radiologists, but that the device offers only limited clinical functionality.

“iPads can be useful tools when a radiologist must provide a quick verbal opinion or consultation when they are not available at their routine workstation,” Seidelmann said. “However, iPads don’t allow the radiologist to access other clinical information that is useful in making a diagnosis, [such as] prior comparison studies from a hospital PACS or other relevant patient clinical history.”

“iPads are nice tools for offering quick verbal opinions or consultations, but currently are unable to take the place of a robust radiology workflow platform,” Seidelmann continued.

To conduct the study, researchers compared 264 readings, with three radiologists each performing 88 readings. Results showed 3.4 percent (nine of 264) of the readings exhibited major discrepancies and 5.6 percent (15 of 264) had minor discrepancies.

Radiologists in the study did, however, note shortcoming associated with the iPad’s software stability, as well as limitations related to image manipulation tools.

The researchers suggested that those issues would need to be addressed “if the potential of tablet computers for mobile teleradiology is to be fully realized.”

The radiologists in the study used software from OsiriX (HD version 2.0.2) to read the images.