Feature | May 07, 2007| Kim Phelan

Ultrasound Answers the Call for Right-Now and Get-it-Right Needs of Cardiology

Kim Phelan, Editor

Sometimes it's the smallest things that leave the strongest impression.
Of the dozens of technologies with which I came into contact during ACC07, it was a new device in the Siemens booth that made one of the more distinct marks on my memory: it's the next plane in cardiac ultrasound's evolution into further miniaturization.
The Acuson P10 — FDA cleared in January but not scheduled for commercial launch till this summer — is a hand-held ultrasound device that physicians can literally wear around their neck like a stethoscope, tucking the tiny monitor into one front lab-coat pocket and the transducer into the other. It weighs a mere pound-and-a-half and its initial target markets will be cardiology, ED and OB/GYN. Siemens spokespeople said they envision a not-so-distant-future in which all cardiologists (and other specialists) will carry this tool with them throughout the day, ready for instant evaluation and decision-guiding answers regarding changes in their patients’ status.
But there's much more involved, of course, in the coming of age for compact cardiac ultrasound. GE, currently the market leader in the compact arena worldwide, packages sophisticated tools in the Vivid e and i machines that enable assessment of left ventricular function.
A real-life example of this is discussed in our Special Report's “Never Fully Cured” article about treating adults with congenital heart defects — Dr. Wendy Book, medical director of Emory's Adult Congenital Cardiac Program in Atlanta says the center is regularly utilizing GE's compact ultrasound technology to not only acquire anatomical information, but physiological and real-time functional data as well. So reliable are the high-quality images their skilled sonographers achieve with GE compact ultrasound, she said, that additional testing is rare.
More and more impressive tools continue to join compact ultrasound's revolution. Notable examples include: Toshiba's innovative use of Bluetooth on the iASSIST machine, Sonosite's tough and dropable Micromaxx that was originally designed for battlefield application, Zonare's unique “Zone Sonography” that comes at ultrasound with a whole new acquisition technique for super-rapid data processing and ultra-sharp images (all in a 5.5-pound machine) and Philips’ attention to high quality, 3-D pediatric echo with the compact X7-2 transducer.
We've witnessed ultrasound transition from a cumbersome and stationary modality to a true point-of-care, at-the-ready diagnostic tool for cardiology that's not only lightweight but offers bona fide excellence and reliability in imaging. Last issue, guest author and consultant Leatrice Ford reported that portable ultrasound exams currently comprise 60 percent of all echos performed in the U.S. — given the ongoing advances in image quality, I shouldn't be at all surprised to see that number climb significantly by this time next year.
Are you a cardiologist who is incorporating portable cardiac ultrasound into your daily routine? I'd very much like to hear the specifics of how you're utilizing this technology at bedside — what are your results and experiences, and what was the catalyst for adding ultrasound to your toolbox? Please email me your examples so I can share your successes here with your peers.
Thanks for reading.

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