Stepping into the Future

Posted on: March 19th, 2021 by admin
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GE Healthcare has been a pioneer in point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS), enabling medical professionals to diagnose clinical problems wherever a patient is being treated. The company introduced the Vscan in 2010 and in the past decade they have sold 30,000 systems that have impacted the care of more than 50 million patients worldwide. This was despite the limited image quality of these early systems and the tether that connected the probe to the hand-held display. Earlier this week, GE unveiled the Vscan Air, a wireless ultrasound system with superb image quality.

An early adopter in upstate New York, Dr Kyle Leonard, commented: “The first time I fired up the device it did feel a little bit like stepping into the future.” He continued, “With the portability and ease of use of the Vscan Air, I can bring it with me throughout the day in each exam room and spend more time with my patients.” With a purchase price of just $4,495 – and no annual subscription fee – it seems clear that GE’s innovative system will soon gain widespread adoption.

As we highlighted three years ago, there are quite a few competitors that are actively marketing their POCUS devices. That said, the Vscan Air (seen left) does have one distinguishing feature: the hand-held transducer has separate probes at each end – a high frequency linear probe below and a convex probe above – thus enabling imaging of both shallow and deep structures. Among the applications for the device will be visualisation of breast lesions when conducting a biopsy, while another application with significant potential is echocardiography for the detection of heart disease.

Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) results from a streptococcal throat infection during childhood and annually causes more than 300,000 deaths, most of these in developing countries. If detected early enough, RHD can be successfully treated with antibiotics before the heart valves are damaged. Two months ago, an important study was published in JAMA Cardiology, in which the investigators reported the effectiveness of echocardiographic screening of schoolchildren in Nepal.

There were almost 4,000 participants in this randomised clinical trial, with the experimental group receiving echocardiography followed by antibiotic prophylaxis if there were signs of RHD. In the control group, children underwent no echocardiographic screening. The results (seen right, © JAMA) led the authors to conclude that the lower prevalence of RHD in children who had been screened warranted further study. This encouraging finding suggests there is great potential for the Vscan Air – and other POCUS devices – to be employed for the benefit of children worldwide.

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