Advancements in Portable Medical Devices: Ultrasound Diagnostics

September 8, 2011

By Peter Cameron, Research & Development Engineer

In the case of trauma, the focus of course is on getting the patient to medical care as safely and as quickly as possible. This is particularly critical in the case of head trauma, where early care can mean the difference between brain damage and a full recovery — or life and death.

For two years now, I’ve been thinking a lot about this as part of my research role in a new acoustics technology that may one day help doctors better diagnose brain hemorrhages on-site where they occur. The technology measures the vibration of tissue in the cranial cavity using a combination of ultrasound transducers. A force excitation first generates waves in the tissue. The presence of a hematoma causes changes in the physical properties of the medium altering the wave pattern and creating a contrast that can be observed.

Probably one of the greatest advantages of using ultrasound technology is its potential portability. As a handheld medical device, it could enable doctors and technicians to bring the diagnostic tool right to the crash site, battlefield, or football field. With the ability to immediately pinpoint the location of the hemorrhage before the patient arrives at the hospital, medical staff will be more readily able to respond to the patient’s needs — and with greater precision.

It’s not only fascinating to consider the possibilities of this advancement, but also perhaps what device makers may want to consider in terms of complementary products for such an ultrasound device. For instance, should it be incorporated with an app that sends images straight to the hospital while the patient is on the way? Could it be incorporated in a bedside device so that nurses could monitor patients? Is there an application for a home care device that patients could use to self administer and transmit images or data back to nurses or doctors at the hospital?

Anticipating new trends in medicine can help us begin to consider these possibilities and others in coming up with innovative solutions to new challenges in medical device development. This is where advancements in medicine and device development meet, raising the bar even higher to new possibilities in patient care, safety, and ultimately, longevity.