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Crisis Response Journal Crisis Response Journal

Bringing ultrasound technology closer to the scene of an incident

Posted on 11th April 2017 at 09:30am

Ultrasound uses sound waves to visualise soft tissues and is better at distinguishing solid masses from fluid filled growths than other imaging technologies such as X-Ray or Computerised Tomography. It has been proven to be one of the most useful diagnostic tools in the field, especially for medical professionals trained in the Focused Assessment with Sonography for Trauma (FAST) examination. This non-invasive, minimal radiation approach utilises ultrasound to examine four classic areas used to identify the presence of any fluids owing to internal bleeding: The perihepatic space; the perisplenic space; pericardium; and the pelvis.

Used in both air and ground deployments by flight nurses, paramedics, EMS, and physicians, FAST can be used to diagnose conditions such as pleural, peritoneal, and pericardial effusion, hemoperitoneum, and deep venous thrombosis caused by penetrating or blunt force trauma. Ultrasound is preferred over competing diagnostic techniques – Diagnostic Peritoneal Lavage and Computerised Tomography – because they are respectively more invasive and more expensive. Early diagnostic ultrasound decreases the time to diagnose acute abdominal injury and allows a responder to accurately diagnose the degree of hemoperitoneum in blunt abdominal trauma therefore decreasing overall traumatic mortality.

The limitations in many health systems lie mostly in the expense of ultrasound, as compact ultrasound systems found in hospitals and private clinics can cost anywhere between US$25,000 to $70,000.

Earlier this year, a British Columbia-based start-up company – Clarius Mobile Health – announced a partnership with North American Rescue to manufacture and distribute its handheld ultrasound scanners, which come in basic or premium versions that cost approximately US$6,900 and $9,900 respectively. The announcement comes just three months after Clarius received FDA 510(k) clearance.

The accuracy, relative low cost, and durability of the device will allow first responders to quickly identify and treat abdominal trauma (photo courtesy Clarius Mobile Health)

Clarius originally unveiled its Wireless Ultrasound Scanner in March 2016. This is a handheld device weighing in at less than one pound, which produces high-resolution ultrasound images that transmit wirelessly to a smartphone app compatible with virtually all iOS and Android devices. Developed with a built-in magnesium case, the handheld ultrasound is battery powered and water submersible, designed to withstand virtually all environments, including combat zones or other limited resource environments.

Clarius scanners are fuelled by rechargeable batteries. Each scanner is associated with a Clarius Cloud account that allows users to save, share and review images on any device with Internet access. Clarius assures that patients’ data is secure by protecting data with a 128-bit encryption.

Clarius co-founder and CEO Laurent Pelissier is optimistic about bringing ultrasound technology closer to the site of accident. In an interview with Smithsonian.com he states: “A paramedic can look and evaluate internal damage, and that can have a significant effect on whether a patient goes straight to the hospital, or whether some triage can happen at the accident site and the patient’s information is sent ahead.”

North American Rescue (NAR) is a private company based in Greer, South Carolina, USA, which develops, manufactures and supplies lifesaving medical/rescue solutions for military, EMS, and other first responders. Its mission is: “To provide solutions that have a direct correlation to decreasing preventable death in Tactical Medicine and Rescue.”

The partnership between Clarius and NAR will distribute the devices to medical professionals at military and federal agencies. The accuracy, relative low cost, and durability of the device will allow first responders to quickly identify and treat abdominal trauma.

Fiona Hart; Carly EstevesIan Portelli

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