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Scan Patients’ Bodies Before Transport? London’s Air Ambulance Tests Out Vscan


For eight weeks, London’s Air Ambulance will be testing out General Electric Healthcare’s portable “Vscan,” which will allow them to non-invasively see inside a patient’s body before a transport.

The ultrasound device — roughly the size of one of today’s smartphones — is not only extremely portable, but also produces a clear, high-quality image for quick, accurate readings by clinicians in emergency situations.

Why is this so important? By scanning patients before an air transport, you can assess the presence of fluid in areas of the body and identify other life threatening conditions. Unchecked, fluid build-ups can cause compression of the heart, a condition that often requires an emergency surgical procedure.

According to GE Healthcare, London’s Air Ambulance is intending to use the Vscan for FAST scanning — Focused Assessment with Sonography in Trauma. This will, among other things, allow the emergency service to rapidly assess the presence of blood on the abdomen, pelvis, and pericardium.

Clearly, knowing as much about the patient’s condition as possible before a flight is a benefit. By being able to assess the patient with the portable Vscan device before taking off, or before the patient arrives at the destination healthcare facility, important clinical decisions that directly affect the patient’s outcome could, potentially, be made with even greater expedience.

It’s a suitable time for the charity-funded emergency air medical service to be trialing the technology. According to London’s Air Ambulance, the Olympic Games have brought a significant number of visitors to London, which, of course, results in higher demand on the city’s emergency services.

According to their site, LAA expects the number of visitors in town for the Paralympic Games to produce an increased demand as well.

Like many other air ambulance services, London’s Air Ambulance relies on clinical assessment rather than imaging to detect heart compression, or palpation to detect for internal bleeding. Vscan will enable air medical clinicians to literally “see” the internal fluid from ruptured organs or blood vessels even earlier; before clinical signs even appear.

Is it only a matter of time before all air ambulance services have a portable device like the Vscan on hand? If technology allows these kind of handheld devices to be made at a reasonable cost, should they be a requirement on all air medical transports?

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