The New Wave of Imaging

Enhanced Portability & Accessibility

Portable imaging equipment is transforming healthcare delivery – from the ambulance to the operating room – and making advanced imaging available to patients in remote or previously inaccessible areas.

Examples

Until recently, ultrasound use been limited by its size and the need for electricity. Now, smaller ultrasound machines, some so tiny they can fit into the palm of your hand, can deliver color-flow Doppler imaging, often on battery power alone. Given their size, their use is spreading worldwide, bringing state-of-the art imaging to health clinics, remote rural areas and disaster recovery sites.

Wireless internet access is status quo in homes, offices and coffee shops, but it has also revolutionized the practice of medicine in clinics, hospitals and physician offices. Wireless transducers for ultrasound now eliminate the need for cumbersome cables, opening up possibilities for wider use, from injecting nerve blocks to enhanced guidance during therapeutic procedures and surgical biopsies.

Every day, 48 people with diabetes go blind. Now, hand-held 3D computed tomography (CT) is being used to detect early retina damage and help prevent blindness in people with diabetes. This technology – known as optical coherence tomography – uses reflected light to image internal structures, including the retina. This scan is non-invasive and can detect retinopathy early, while there is still time to prevent blindness.

Imagine if a medic could scan an injured soldier on the battlefield to assess the extent of his injuries. New, portable magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) devices require minimal power and can be used in clinics, nursing homes, emergency rooms and in the field. Researchers at a Canadian university are even developing a compact MRI machine designed for the final frontier – outer space – since astronauts who get sick can’t see a doctor until they return to Earth.

Every minute counts in a medical emergency. Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) found that using portable computed tomography (CT) in patient rooms cuts the amount of time required to make images available from 50 to just 20 minutes. In addition to helping doctors arrive at a diagnosis more quickly, there’s less discomfort for patients, since they don’t have to be moved from room to room. This innovation isn’t just limited to the hospital – today, data gathered from portable imaging equipment during an ambulance ride can be sent via encrypted 3G, 4G and satellite connections to the emergency room or trauma center before the patient arrives, enabling physicians to detect critical conditions such as brain trauma or stroke. A randomized clinical trial also found that having a portable CT in the ambulance reduced the time between alarm to therapy decision from 76 to 35 minutes.

Moving critically ill patients to radiology is risky for the patient, takes precious time and could potentially spread infection across the hospital. Portable X-ray devices can now be used at the bedside and even in the operating room, without interfering with other electronics. The result: speedier diagnosis and treatment and more efficient care.

A randomized clinical trial found that having a portable CT in the ambulance reduced the time between alarm to therapy decision from 76 to 35 minutes.

A study at the Cleveland Clinic found that making portable head/neck CT imaging available at the point of care in the ICU significantly reduced the average wait time for a scan and saved the hospital $162,000 annually.