Handheld ultrasound- the EM gadget of the future

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As ultrasound machines get smaller and smaller I’m excited at what is coming up. In Australia Sonosite have introduced the new handheld PDA-type ultrasound machine. A bit geeky if you hang it round your neck, but I won’t care. The problem with most of these is that the software hasn’t quite caught up yet. Above we see the Siemens model. Compact, I agree, but not small enough to hand around your neck or put in a pocket, although doable. My reckoning is that at this size, I may as well have a laptop sized one. The Sonosite, although small and manageable gives static images rather than a real time continuous ultrasound image and that can be an issue. But wait, in the wings this year is the ‘Motorola’ Vscan. it is a fully fledged ultrasound machine, that is no bigger than the motorola flip phone. This I’m excited about! I want the ultrasound to all but replace my stethoscope. I no longer want to hear heart sounds. In fact I’ll be lucky to, within the environment of the emergency department, where noise levels can reach in excess of 110dB. I want to see the heart valves. I want to do a carotid doppler on every patient I examine with heart conditions that is a potential vasculopath. I can ultrasound those legs and as far as the abdomen goes, I want to look for those gallstones and examine the common bile duct. This is medicine of the best kind. Imagine the ability to detect conditions previously undiagnosed, at the coalface, performing tests in numbers that we could never carry out formally via the radiology department, purely from a logistics point of view. With no radiation exposure to the patient, we can do a cursory ultrasound as part of our examination and screen for particular tumours or conditions. Certainly all the training will have to go with it, however we’ve already been through all this in Emergency medicine with the FAST scan in trauma resuscitation.

I get excited when technology can assist us more than we currently foresee. I look forward to the device. I will certainly hang one around my neck and use it.

Dr Peter Kas

Emergency Physician, Educator. Key Interests: Resuscitation, Airway, Emergency Cardiology, Clinical Examination. Creator resus.com.au.

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