Sci-fi reality in pocket-size scanner

An ultrasound scanner the size of a large mobile phone has been launched in Europe and North America in a bid to offer rapid early diagnosis to triage patients in hospitals.

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The V-scan can be used to image the heart and other organs.

Developer GE Healthcare says the portable device, priced at about $A8,700, is not designed to replace existing machines however smaller communities who use the device and would then be referred for more specialist examination.

The Vscan is not science fiction but a hand-held ultrasound machine with a scanning wand attached, which has been approved for use in Europe and North America.

The device is being used in the cardiac investigation unit at St George’s Hospital in south London.

The moving colour images show blood flow around the heart and by switching to black and white you can see heart valves opening and closing.

George Sutherland, professor of cardiac imaging at St George’s in the UK, believes hand-held scanners will one day be standard issue for doctors on ward rounds.

“In terms of clinical practice it’s a huge step forward,” Sutherland said.

It also has the possibility to be used in many clinical settings such as primary care, intensive care and casualty Julie Walton, British Medical Ultrasound Society

“Here we are giving people essentially an electronic stethoscope in their pocket that images and looks at all parts of the body.

“With adequate training this should mean we can diagnose rapidly and treat accordingly. It should be an amazing development.”

The portability of the device means it is likely to have use outside hospital – allowing scanning to be done wherever it is needed, in the home or perhaps for the military on the battlefield.