GE?s new pocket ultrasound aims to accelerate time to diagnosis, reduce patient wait times, and improve physician workflow.

GE Healthcare, Milwaukee, has received 510(k) Food and Drug Administration approval for Vscan, a new pocket-size ultrasound that is intended for a variety of point of care applications such as in the ER, OB-GYN, and certain cardiac and primary care situations.

Vscan is part of the growing ranks of a new pocket-size class of ultrasounds. Axis Imaging News reported about some of the earlier and developing models in the August 2009 issue, available online. (See ?Hip Pockets.?)

Thus far, none of these small devices are meant to be a replacement for larger, more powerful laptop/hand-carried ultrasounds (HCUs). Rather, the pocket ultrasound class is meant to help clinicians with more precise, rapid visualizations such as detecting gallstones and cardiac issues like left-ventricular systolic dysfunction, and many other diagnostic applications.

In general, the pocket ultrasounds like the Vscan can be used as an adjunct to traditional palpation or auscultation techniques. In particular, critical care units may find great benefit from Vscan and similar devices. For example, a Vscan might offer emergency department clinicians confirmation of critical issues such as an accident victim?s faint pulse. Clinicians can also use Vscan for diagnosing abdominal aortic aneurysm and fluid around the heart, or for confirming that a subcutaneous mass is fluid rather than tissue.

In terms of increased efficiency, the unit will also be able to record data and transfer that data to a patient?s electronic health record.

Vscan is light and portable, weighing less than a pound and measuring 3 inches by 5.3 inches. GE describes the unit as about the size of a smartphone, which will easily fit in a clinician?s lab coat pocket. In terms of battery life, Vscan?s rechargeable battery should last for 1 hour of scanning, which GE estimates is equivalent to 30 patients based on an average of 2 minutes per scan.

Vscan weighs less than a pound and fits in a clinician?s lab coat pocket.

Vscan also features voice annotation, USB docking station, and software for linking to a PC for organization and transferring the recorded data and integration with electronic health record systems.

GE hopes that the wide use of Vscan will ultimately help accelerate time to diagnosis, reduce patient wait times, and improve physician workflow.

One of the early users of the device, Anthony N. DeMaria, MD, professor of medicine, Judith and Jack White Chair in Cardiology, and director, Sulpizio Family Cardiovascular Center at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, commented in the press announcement, ?Having Vscan at my disposal at all times has allowed me to use ultrasound in a number of settings and with patients that I wouldn?t have anticipated before?from the ICU, to the outpatient clinic as well as with ambulatory patients.?

Naturally, as much as Vscan may be useful in a variety of clinical settings and applications, hospitals and clinicians will have to weigh its benefits against its cost. A spokesperson for GE said that the unit will cost between $5,000 and $10,000, but as with all technology and market forces, costs will probably come down over time.

To further show evidence for its clinical utility, GE is currently enlisting 12 leading clinical sites throughout the world to help determine how Vscan will impact workflow and focused exams in primary care and cardiology practices. The hope is to use this data to develop a structural protocol for Vscan exams in the future.

Tor Valenza is an associate editor of Axis Imaging News.