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Medical Device Innovation: Pocket Ultra Sound

Posted Mar 21 2011 12:41pm

If you’ve ever had an Ultrasound then you’ve probably got a pretty good image in your head of what the average Ultrasound machine looks like. You might be picturing a computer screen. Or maybe you’re picturing the large and often awkward cart its rolled around on, strangely reminiscent of a 1980s printer. Though these machines are still common place in hospitals across the country many have been replaced by large laptop devices. Even those, however, are bulky and incredibly expensive. Recently GE (General Electric) made a move to change that. In October of 2009 they introduced the world to a small handheld device known as the Vscan via a Web Summit in San Fransisco, CA. This is a Ultrasound machine that fits in the palm of your hand and is only slightly larger than today’s smart phones. Very shortly after the Summit, in February of 2010 the device was released for sale.

Though it weighs under a pound, the Vscan is said to be just as powerful as many console Ultrasound machines. It is also thousands of dollars cheaper, and in fact, some have called it “surprisingly affordable.” This small device carries features such as voice recording, an hour long battery life, color flow doppler, and the ability to zoom in and out on an image. It also comes with an USB port adaptation that allows for uploading of images and voice recorded information to the computer.

Generally we think of ultrasounds as an OBGYN tool, which is of course an option. The Vscan could be used, for instance, to tell is a baby has breached. It is however, also possible to use the Vscan in emergency medicine situations. An E.R. Doctor can use this device to view a patient’s chest and determine whether there is fluid present, as well as take a visual look at how well the patient’s heart is pumping. This means that the Vscan could give doctors a faster method than calling in a specialist, and of course, the lack of a specialist also means much cheaper costs for the patients and the hospitals.

Since its public release in 2010 there hasn’t been much public discussion on the device, but it certainly hasn’t gone away. Though the Vscan device has not yet become mainstream throughout American hospitals it is being tested in several hospitals across the world. GE seems to have high hopes that the Vscan could one day be as common as a stethoscope in emergency rooms and doctor’s offices all around the world.


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