The continuous development of ultrasound technology is just one indicator of sonography’s increasing importance. It is even more exciting when new ultrasound devices are employed in healthcare across the globe, even in the most remote communities. The Vscan, developed by GE Healthcare and largely funded by NIBIB (the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering) is a significant example.
The pocket-sized Vscan was first launched in October 2009. In a recent NIH Medicine Plus article (“New NIH-funded Ultrasound Technology is Changing Lives around the World”), NIBIB’s director Dr. Roderic I. Pettigrew is quoted as saying, “This handheld device allows non-invasive imaging at the point of care at a cost that is 20 times lower than that of traditional large mainframe ultrasound machines,” adding that it can be used in settings from large hospitals to small places with limited resources.
GE Global Research’s chief technologist, Dr. Kai Thomenius, who directed the development of the Vscan, has been working on “miniaturizing” ultrasound scanners for years, from washing machine size to desktop computer size, and then down to handheld size.
The Vscan, which has a long lasting battery for increased portability in point of care settings, is used for various types of examinations on both adult and pediatric patients, from abdominal and cardiac to genitourinary and obstetric. The device is easy to use and generates real-time, high-quality images incorporating color Doppler to denote blood flow.
The Vscan is now being used in over 100 countries, according to NIH Medicine Plus, and last year, GE teamed up with the American Society of Echocardiography (ASE) to provide free cardiac ultrasound (using the Vscan) to over 1,000 individuals, who were among the millions gathered at a meditation camp in a rural community of northwest India. “The patients had been pre-screened by paramedical workers and had symptoms, or were suspected to have cardiac abnormalities, but had not had an imaging study in the past year,”wrote Dr. Partho P Sengupta for a GE news story in July 2012.
Dr. Sengupta added that those who live in remote areas of India and other developing countries are at high risk for cardiovascular disease but have limited means of accessing diagnosis and treatment services. Dr. Sengupta stated, “This project elevated cardiovascular ultrasound to a new level, taking it out of the lab to people who would not ordinarily have access to care.”