New technology helps assess injuries quickly

New technologies can save countless lives during emergency medical transport. More accurate injury assessment is now possible almost immediately after an accident, thanks to a new handheld sonar device developed by General Electric.

The VScan Air enables instant body scans that help paramedics and doctors determine the nature of the injury or get an indication of the severity of an injury before a patient is admitted to the hospital.

Netcare 911 aeromedical unit, as well as critical care ambulances, will be the first rescuers to use the device. The companies demonstrated the VScan at a product launch in Midrand yesterday.

More insight into injuries

By simply focusing the device on an area of ​​the body, an instant visual image is transmitted to a mobile device such as a cell phone, allowing emergency responders to gain greater insight into a casualty’s injuries.

These ultrasound images can also be forwarded to the receiving trauma center via email, WhatsApp or even SMS prior to a patient’s arrival.

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“At the scene of an emergency, we need to make a rapid assessment of the patient’s condition to determine the extent of their injuries, which will determine the next steps in their treatment,” said Netcate 911 CEO Craig Grindell.

“If the person has serious injuries, extended life support must begin immediately to be most effective, but we must first identify what is wrong in order to make the best possible clinical decisions for the patient.”

New technology helps assess injuries quickly
Paramedic Gerhard Louw demonstrates the Vscan Air during an event at the Netcare 911 Ultimate Heli Port in Midrand, December 13, 2022. Picture Neil McCartney

Grindell added that previously scans could not be performed in transit.

He said ultrasound machines have always been large and cumbersome, making them impractical in confined spaces like helicopters and fixed-wing airplanes.

“The ultrasound machines we’ve used to date have provided valuable insight into internal injuries or the presence of blood, and these machines also took longer to set up, meaning that their use has not always been as convenient when time is of the essence, to save lives.”

The VScan, he said, will change the face of emergency medicine forever — and for the better. Use of the device is not limited to emergencies involving injury.

Charne van der Berg, Netcare 911’s critical care operations manager, said the deployment extends to several other emergency situations.

As an example, she gave a heart attack: “If the patient has heart failure, we can now see the heart and which area is properly affected in order to initiate the right treatment immediately.

“This ultrasound machine also helps us with accurate IV line placement and intubation. It helps ensure we’ve passed the vocal cords and reached the correct position to keep the airway open.”

Medical care in rural areas

The trauma surgeon Dr. MS Moeng agreed and was excited about its potential to empower first responders to save lives. He listed events such as an abdominal aortic aneurysm, in which an aortic artery swells, bleeds, and can become life-threatening with two strokes, chest pain, and even difficulty breathing.

He also noted that greater use of the device could bring vital medical care to rural areas where access to sophisticated technology has been limited or even non-existent.

The VScan will be put to the test during the holiday season as South Africa is notorious for its unsafe roads and the number of fatalities and near-fatalities.

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Grindell said advanced life support paramedics will now be able to perform an e-fast [extended focused assessment with sonography in trauma] scan to identify injuries during transport.

“This will allow for faster decision making, such as directing patients to the most appropriate trauma center. This can make a crucial difference in the delivery of emergency medical services and help achieve better outcomes.”

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