'Pocket' ultrasounds bring low-cost imaging to the point of care

"Portable medical imaging" may sound like an oxymoron, conjuring up thoughts of mobile MRI units that travel in 53-foot semi-trailers. (Anyone who's ever seen the mammoth Radiological Society of North America show floor knows what I'm talking about.) But hand-carried ultrasounds are starting shrink down to "pocket" size.

To date, the FDA has approved two pocket ultrasound devices: the 1.6-pound Siemens Acuson P10 and the Signos Personal Ultrasound from Palo Alto, CA-based Signostics, weighing in at about half a pound. Both are only slightly larger than a BlackBerry, according to Imaging Economics, and provide quick diagnostic readouts, making them ideal for EMT and triage applications. At under $10,000, the devices are not meant to replace hand-carried ultrasounds, but rather serve as an extension of the larger units to the point of care.

And on the horizon is a low-cost therapeutic pocket ultrasound. A Cornell University biomedical engineer built a prototype with $150 in spare parts. If things go as planned, it could be on the market within five years.

For more on this emerging technology:
- have a look at this Imaging Economics piece (reg. req.)