Published in the August 2009 issue of Today’s Hospitalist
IMAGINE AN ULTRASOUND SYSTEM that weighs less than 10 pounds and withstands being dropped, banged and splashed with fluid. By just about any definition, it would be rugged “and portable “enough for bedside care.
That’s the thinking behind the SonoSite hand-carried ultrasound systems, which were originally designed for military field use. SonoSite, which is based in Bothell, Wash., has placed 50,000 hand-carried units worldwide in clinical settings such as emergency departments, anesthesiology suites, ICUs and physician offices.
Hospitalists represent a new market for the ultrasound products, one of which “introduced just last month “weighs only six pounds. As more hospitalists are launching procedure services, rugged, portable ultrasound is an indispensable tool for safe line placement and other procedures, and for point-of-care cardiac assessment.
“Using ultrasound for diagnoses or procedural guidance right at the bedside can change patient management, often within seconds,” says Theodore Nielsen, RT, RDMS, SonoSite’s director for critical care. “Especially in a life-threatening environment, that can be critical.”
According to Mr. Nielsen, the products’ technological innovations ensure the same high-quality, high-resolution images as cart-based ultrasound systems, but without the bulk. The SonoSite products boot up from a cold start in less than 15 seconds and feature what he calls “an incredibly simplified operation, so you don’t have to push a lot of buttons to get you where you want to go.” Users need to change only one control, for instance, to automatically adjust multiple imaging parameters, such as focal zones and spatial compounding.
Unlike traditional ultrasound systems used in the imaging lab, Mr. Nielsen explains, SonoSite products are designed to be used by physicians at the point of care.
Several organizations, including the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, now recommend using ultrasound guidance for safer line placement and other procedures. As for cardiac assessment, Mr. Nielsen points out, hospitalists are beginning to see the advantage of being able to “immediately assess patient status at the bedside.”
“You can see how the heart is beating, if it is volume-depleted or tachycardic, and if there is pleural effusion,” he says. “Having those answers in a matter of seconds can change patient management.”