Compact ultrasound offers quick diagnoses

At least two handheld ultrasound devices will be available for use at Temple Hospital.

At least two handheld ultrasound devices will be available for use at Temple Hospital.

During the next few months, handheld ultrasound machines that are shaped and sized similar to an iPod will be used inside Temple University Hospital and Medical School.

The device allows for handheld, bedside images of the heart to be easily viewed in a short time.

Manufacturers of these types of product include GE Healthcare and Siemens Healthcare, while prices for the devices can range anywhere from $3,000 or more.

“The ability to visualize the heart non-invasively at the bedside during routine rounds or during an emergency gives the clinician immediate information that can be used along with other clinical data in the diagnosis and management of the patient,” said Jose Missri, a professor of medicine, the chief of cardiology and vice chair for clinical affairs.

These devices, such as the ACUSON P10, weigh 1.6 pounds, according to Siemens, and can easily fit into a lab coat pocket.

Missri and John Panidis, the director of echocardiography and a professor of medicine, said Temple plans to order at least two handheld ultrasound machines from GE.

According to GE, the Vscan has the potential to help redefine the physical exam and improve patient care by enhancing a doctor’s ability to quickly and accurately make diagnoses.

“I work on a study in Temple’s [emergency department] investigating the best treatments for potential [Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus] infections, so I’ve seen a fair number of ultrasounds. We use them to qualify skin and soft tissue infections,” James Haddad, a student worker for TUH, said in an e-mail.

“My immediate thoughts on a handheld ultrasound device involved the ease with which I could screen patients in the waiting room for this study,” Haddad said. “Without wasting an exam room or a physician’s time, I could identify infections that qualify for the study. Thinking somewhat less selfishly, putting one of these in the hands of a triage nurse could help more accurately classify skin lesions.”

The new devices can be used in the fields of obstetrics – where they can be used to view an infant in delivery – and in cardiology, emergency rooms, intensive care units, as well as ambulances and medevac helicopters.

“While the new handheld ultrasound machine can only produce basic capabilities, it provides a real-time look at the heart and complements the physical examination,” Missri said.

Although the machines would cut the need to move patients around to reach an ultrasound machine, they do not substitute for complete echo-Doppler examinations, which are usually performed at patients’ bedsides in emergency situations, Missri said.

In the future, doctors and medical professionals, including Missri, plan to see updated prototypes of this new technology that resemble more features provided by large, standard ultrasound machines.

Bringing this new form of technology to TUH will allow professionals and students glance at this new device and a preview of what technological advancements are to come in the medical field.

For Temple, the new machine “will likely serve as a teaching tool for medical students, residents and fellows,” Missri said.

“This technological field is rapidly developing systems that are revolutionizing the imaging of the heart,” he added.

Alyssa Saylor can be reached at

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