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Jim Lewis
Jim Lewis
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Are Ultrasounds the new Stethoscopes?

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Most people hear the word “ultrasound” and think of a pregnancy imaging device. While just a few short years ago this would be the best association for an ultrasound, this device has quickly evolved to become one of the best tools for detecting kidney stones, blood clots and many other serious health issues. The ultrasound is becoming such a powerful tool in the medical field that it’s actually being referred to as the “stethoscope if the 21st century.”

The reason the ultrasound has grown in popularity is because it can replace many of the functions of an X-ray or CT scan, which use powerful ionizing radiation that could pose problems for individuals with pre-existing health conditions. Ultrasounds are also noninvasive and are becoming less expensive than other detection methods. These devices have been widely used for obstetrics since the 1940s, since they are much safer for fetuses and pregnant mothers.

Cardiologists, internal medicine doctors and emergency medical professionals have also started using ultrasound devices more recently, but there are many medical professionals who think these devices are being underutilized. In the recent year two local studies were launched to promote the use of ultrasound devices, one by the Eastern Virginia (VA) Medical School and the other by Norfolk (VA) Hospitals.

The study at the Eastern Virginia (VA) Medical School is being conducted by the chairman of obstetrics and gynecology, Dr. Alfred Abuhamad, who has studied and perfected ultrasound software for years. He is trying to make the devices familiar to students, and is incorporating 30 hand-held units into the curriculum at the school. His thinking is that if they can teach the importance of the ultrasound devices to students, they’ll be much more inclined to use them once they’re practicing medicine.

The second local study has outfitted Norfolk ambulances with portable ultrasound devices to help diagnose patients in emergency situations. These devices not only detect if there is fluid around the heart or the lugs, but they can be used to help guide EMTs in inserting central lines for transfusions and emergency medicines. The portable devices have made a huge impact in the fast-paced world of emergency medical transport, since life or death decisions are often made without much knowledge of the patient or condition to simply sustain the patient until they get to the hospital.

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, whose attorneys work out of offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, Eastern Shore Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as a pro bono service.