Scientific American reports on the technology trend that is making a real difference in the care of patients with COVID-19.

When patients with a new disease called COVID-19 started pouring into his hospital, pulmonary and critical care physician Bilal Jalil found himself turning to a pocket-size device he had been using to quickly check heart function in his private practice. It was a handheld point-of-care ultrasound, or POCUS, which consists of a simple probe that can broadcast ultrasound images to a display tablet or phone. The tool proved invaluable in making critical triage choices: within minutes Jalil, who works in the intensive care unit in the Baylor Scott & White Health system in Texas, could see if someone’s lungs were affected enough to require intensive care.

Many emergency care doctors around the world have begun relying on POCUS units as a first line of defense in confronting COVID-19. Blood tests sometimes take 24 hours, and CT scan rooms have long waits. But these little ultrasound gadgets can reveal lung damage on the spot, showing doctors whether individuals can breathe independently or need to be immediately put on ventilators.

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