Air Force Tests Wearable Ultrasound Technology

July 6, 2011

The Air Force has a program, the Education and Training Technology Application Program (ETTAP), specifically geared to introduce new technology into the training environment. This program funds initiatives to incorporate the latest advances in technology into the training setting.

This article represents the views of the author, not the views of the U.S. Air Force.

Portable Ultrasound - A Peek at the Future NCO Helps Create New Ultrasound Technology 

Portable Ultrasound - An Interview with Cheryl VanceTerry J. DuBose, M.S., RDMS, OBGYN.net Editorial Advisor interviews Cheryl Vance, MA, RDMS, RVT, OBGYN.net Editorial Advisor, 382nd Training Squadron at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas  

Air Force Tests Wearable Ultrasound Technology
By Cheryl Vance, MA, RDMS, RVT, OBGYN.net Editorial Advisor, 382nd Training Squadron at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas  

 

The Air Force has a program, the Education and Training Technology Application Program (ETTAP), specifically geared to introduce new technology into the training environment.  This program funds initiatives to incorporate the latest advances in technology into the training setting.  After learning about the ETTAP program, I eagerly searched the Internet to find technology that might fit into this category.  I was particularly interested in the thought of purchasing new equipment for my ultrasound students without cutting into our department’s funds. 

While searching the Internet, I found a website promoting an ultrasound machine that operates from a laptop computer.  Although this was excellent technology in itself, I didn’t think it was quite “unique” enough to be funded through an ETTAP project.  So, I continued searching the web until I found information on the latest wearable computers.  When I inquired about using the wearable technology with the laptop ultrasound company, I found that it was considered a vision for the future, but that it was not yet in production. 

I was very intrigued about combining these two technologies, so I continued researching the wearable computing aspect until I found a company whose hardware was capable of running the ultrasound program.  In fact, this particular company was already privately working with the laptop ultrasound company to develop a wearable unit with enough memory to run their ultrasound system.  Realizing I would not stop until I got my wearable ultrasound system, the laptop ultrasound company eventually allowed me to purchase the very first wearable system for testing in my ETTAP project.  Finally, my persistence paid off!

In February 2002, the wearable computer was delivered to the Air Force ultrasound course.  Currently, it has B-mode, M-mode and Color Doppler.  We are anxiously awaiting a memory upgrade to run Power Doppler and Spectral Doppler.  The image quality is quite amazing considering it is being projected onto such a tiny display screen.  An added benefit of this wearable technology is room lighting no longer poses a problem.  The head-mounted display screen produces zero glare - regardless of the lighting scenario.

Wearable, PC-based ultrasound applications are endless.  For example, since the system runs on a Windows-based operating system, its images can be downloaded instantaneously from a remote location and transferred for any telemedicine application imaginable.  Beyond the remarkable ultrasound applications, the added benefit of the system being PC-based is just icing on the cake!  Now, a sonographer can check e-mail, finish crunching manpower numbers, or even fine-tune a PowerPoint presentation for a case analysis in-between scanning patients.  It allows more flexibility without the burden of switching to or learning an entirely new system.  I am thrilled to be a pioneer in the imminent wearable ultrasound trend.  Sonography certainly is the “wave” of the future!

MSgt. Cheryl A. Vance, MA, RDMS
ETTAP Project Officer, Handheld Ultrasound