From teens, to the elderly, to the most vulnerable people in our region; portable ultrasounds have the potential to help every single patient in need of emergency medicine. They can quickly be used to produce images of a patient’s organs (with no radiation) to diagnose, triage and – in ultrasound-guided procedures – treat a patient.
• A 17-year-old male patient whose heart was failing after he was found in a snowbank with hypothermia. The ED team used the ultrasound with the TEE probe (pictured) to help actively resuscitate him over several hours. He walked out of the ICU just a few days later.
• An 86-year-old female patient was in terrible pain after breaking her hip. She had dementia and didn’t know which medications she was taking. The ED physician was able to avoid any potential complications from painkillers by using the ultrasound machine to help guide the placement of a nerve block to ease her pain. This method also works for patients who may struggle with opioid dependencies by providing drug-free pain relief.
• A 72-year-old male has collapsed and arrives to the ED in critical condition. A bedside ultrasound reveals a previously unknown abdominal aortic aneurysm. This is a life-threatening condition if not recognized and immediately treated. With this diagnosis made within minutes of his arrival, his care is quickly expedited to the operating room where he undergoes a successful repair.
Other Ultrasound Applications
RESPIRATORY CONCERNS: Lung ultrasound is a fast and effective alternative to x-ray, particularly with COVID-19 patients. They come with a special probe that reveals images even during resuscitation, identifying any life-threatening blockages that can be treated on the spot to save a life.
SAVING THE VEIN: Sometimes just finding a vein to insert an intravenous (IV) line can be challenging for the care provider and distressing for the patient, especially if they can’t enter through the arm (periphery) and must use a central line through a larger tube in the neck, upper chest or groin. The ultrasound provides a quick and painless way of guiding this procedure.
DIAGNOSING PAINFUL CONDITIONS TO PROVIDE QUICK RELIEF: Urologic issues like testicular torsion (when the blood supply cord to the testicle becomes twisted, causing sudden pain and swelling) benefit from quick diagnosis with the ultrasound. Gallstones are another painful reason for visiting the ED. The ultrasound helps the care team see the gallbladder and bile ducts to identify any blockages.
PREGNANCY COMPLICATIONS: An expecting mother who is worried about her baby’s health finds immediate relief when she can see the fetal heart beat on an ultrasound, which helps lower her blood pressure and reduce her health risks.