Pocket-sized ultrasound making waves in Osler's Emergency Departments

by William Osler | Oct 30, 2020

A pocket-sized, hand-held ultrasound device

If you happen to see one of Osler's Emergency Department (ED) physicians walking around sporting a fanny pack, it's not a new fashion statement. Tucked away in that tiny pouch is a pocket-sized, hand-held ultrasound device – a powerful new piece of technology that is revolutionizing point-of-care diagnostics and procedural indications to enhance patient safety.

With more than 45 of these portable ultrasounds currently being used by Osler ED and critical care physicians, Dr. Jeffrey Handler, Emergency Medicine Physician, says Osler's ED has emerged as a Canadian test centre for these devices. The device's compact size makes is as accessible as a stethoscope, travelling with physicians directly to the patient's bedside. It can move easily from unit to unit within the hospital and also into community settings such as long-term-care homes, palliative care homes, and family practice. There is also already growing interdepartmental utilization of these devices at Osler, including in the ICU, palliative care and other hospital units.

Physicians can scan a patients' entire body using one probe in a holistic approach, providing rapid, safe, accurate diagnosis and expedited care without moving the patient or having to wait for a larger device to become free. Many of these devices, which complement not replace existing technology, have a computer chip that links directly to a smart phone for real-time results, signaling a new era in medical technology.

Dr. Handler said many ED and critical care staff are using this new technology to safely make important diagnosis in patients. It was, for example, recently used to diagnose retinal detachment and also to identify an ectopic pregnancy in a woman who presented with hypotension and abdominal pain and required immediate surgery. And these are just two of the many cases, both in the ED and on other units throughout Osler, where this new technology is changing the patient experience.

Osler Emergency Medicine Physician, Dr. Jerome Fan, calls the technology a "game-changer" for patients. "It is changing practice, improving safety and increasing patient satisfaction," he said.

These portable hand-held devices are the latest evolution in Osler's Point of Care Ultrasound (POCUS) program, which has been growing since 1999, and support Osler's strategic commitment to quality excellence, innovation and collaboration.

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