Doctors love fancy bits of kit, and there is no better example of this than when it comes to ultrasound imaging. There are fabulous machines around that give spectacular images – but how good does an image have to be to get the diagnosis right? -
My colleague Ahmad Sayasneh published a paper yesterday in the journal Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology – in which he showed that small hand-held ultrasound machines of the type pictures on the left can give very useful information in a variety of clinical situations. In his study of 204 patients he looked at whether management based on the hand held machine was any different to when a large very expensive department machine was used. Surprisingly in only 2 cases would immediate management have been different. The images obtained were not as good – but the point is that the images were good enough to make a sensible clinical decision.
This is particularly important in early pregnancy care. A women with bleeding and pain in early pregnancy needs to know if the pregnancy is in the right place (i.e. not an ectopic pregnancy) and if there is a heartbeat in order to be reassured about viability. It seems small inexpensive hand held machines can do this satisfactorily in most cases. These machines are light and truly pocket sized – and one imagines it should be possible to “toughen” them and enable them to be recharged using solar power or a car battery – and so make them useful in many environments where ultrasound may not be available. I need to declare my bias – as I work with Ahmad – but I think this is an important paper that may lead to much better accessibility to ultrasound.