Portable Ultrasound - A Peek at the Future

July 6, 2011

Some of you know that I have long been an advocate of miniaturization in Sonography, and predicted that we will all be Cyborgs within 5 years. Well, one of our own, Master Sgt. Cheryl Vance, a diagnostic sonography instructor assigned to the 382nd Training Squadron at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas (yes, SDMS Region 3 rules the future!) may well be the first Sonographic Cyborg on Earth! Or would that be a "SonoBorg"?

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 

 

Some of you know that I have long been an advocate of miniaturization in Sonography, and predicted that we will all be Cyborgs within 5 years. Well, one of our own, Master Sgt. Cheryl Vance, a diagnostic sonography instructor assigned to the 382nd Training Squadron at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas (yes, SDMS Region 3 rules the future!) may well be the first Sonographic Cyborg on Earth! Or would that be a "SonoBorg"?

We had asked Cheryl to demonstrate her new toy(s) at the SDMS Annual Conference, but the Air Force declined because they were afraid it would appear to be commercially biased toward one vender. However, since they have now published their own article in the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) newspaper, perhaps they will let Master Sgt. Vance demonstrate at a future conference.

This really is the future for portable sonography, whether it is on the battlefield or in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Congratulations Cheryl Vance, RDMS on well deserved recognition.

Peace, Terry J. DuBose, M.S., RDMS,
Assistant Professor & Director, Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program
CHRP, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Little Rock, Arkansas, USA
501-686-6510
http://www.io.com/~dubose/http://www.uams.edu/CHRP/dmshome.htmhttp://www.obgyn.net/us/panel/panel

 

 

NCO Helps Create New Ultrasound Technology

By 2nd Lt. Nathan Broshear
82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

Reprinted with permission of the U.S. Air Force, please click on image for larger view.

SHEPPARD AIR

FORCE BASE, Texas (AETCNS) -- A revolutionary new mobile ultrasound machine, created with the help of an NCO stationed here, means better training for ultrasound technicians and increased patient care.

“At first, it does make you look a little like a cyborg, but once you get used to the equipment it’s second nature,” said Master Sgt. Cheryl Vance, a diagnostic ultrasound instructor at the 382nd Training Squadron and the impetus behind the creation of the “wearable ultrasound.”

The newest addition to the Diagnostic Ultrasound Course is a vest that holds the ultrasound probe and central processing unit, a wristband keyboard and mouse, and a single eyepiece that displays the same type of interface a common Microsoft user would recognize. Students call the machine the “wearable” ultrasound.

“There isn’t really a name for it yet, but I bet once it’s on the market nation-wide they’ll think of something,” said Staff Sgt. Rebecca Gibson, a student attending the course from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Appearances aside, the “wearable” ultrasound from Sheppard’s 882nd Training Group provides an important advance in ultrasound technology.

“We’re excited about the possibilities,” said Col. Jeanie Kearney, 882nd Training Group commander. “This merger between the Windows platform, wearable computing, and cutting-edge ultrasound equipment has freed the operator to go to the patient instead of vice-versa. We hope to make this commonplace in our curriculum.”

While the portable equipment is currently only used for the Diagnostic Ultrasound Course, plans are underway to include the equipment in many medical classes taken by future Air Force technicians. An operator will be able to lecture on the anatomy of interest, then immediately demonstrate how the anatomy may appear, using real-time ultrasound scanning techniques and projecting images in front of the class on a large-screen monitor.

“Many people don’t realize that ultrasound technology is more than simply a machine to look at babies,” said Colonel Kearney. “Instructors in other courses will use this new tool to illustrate the body’s anatomy to students while walking around the room during a lecture. It’s a more hands-on approach to teaching medicine.”

The machine also has the ability to store images on the hard drive, or transmit them over a network in video or as an e-mail attachment.

“Soon a doctor in Texas will be able to scan a patient while speaking directly with a specialist across the country for instant expert opinion. Advances you see in your desktop computer will certainly filter into this one,” said Sergeant Vance.

Even without a network connection, the wearable ultrasound can be taken places a traditional machine would never be located. “Previously, patients had to be taken to an ultrasound area where a 300-pound machine was used to perform the procedure,” explained Sergeant Vance. “With this machine we can go to them -- in the field, on an airplane or any type of austere location.”

It’s not surprising Sergeant Vance is the expert on the wearable ultrasound; it is her concept. Six months ago, she submitted a proposal through the Education and Training Technology Application Program to research and develop her project.

“The underlying technology already existed, the trick was to combine the two components,” said Sergeant Vance.

The joint venture between the Air Force and the two private companies resulted in a machine that has all the capabilities of the previous refrigerator-size ultrasound but at about one-seventh the cost. Even simulators, at $75,000 each, are almost twice as expensive as the estimated $36,000 cost for the basic wearable ultrasound.

“While a conventional machine works fine, the wearable ultrasound … allows us to leapfrog a lot of interface issues and get right to the heart of our training -- diagnosis,” said Sergeant Vance.

It’s this direct impact on training that has caught the eye of leadership.

“We expect to increase student’s hands-on training time by 100 percent,” said Colonel Kearney. “This will decrease the washout rate, but most importantly, make for a better trained professional at graduation.”

It currently costs $78,000 to train a single ultrasound technician. “Regardless of the field benefits, if we can help just one student through their courses, then this machine pays for itself,” said Colonel Kearney.

The companies Sergeant Vance worked with are currently developing a unit for civilian ultrasound facilities. Although Sergeant Vance does not own the invention, she’s happy to have had a hand in its development.

“I couldn’t have done this without all of the support I got at work and at home. To be honest, I was just hoping to help our class and it seems to have just exploded,” she said.

Brig. Gen. Arthur Rooney, 82nd Training Wing commander, points to the wearable ultrasound as another example of the “culture of innovation” he has come to expect from Sheppard’s technical training courses.

“We are constantly ‘transforming’ our training to meet the needs of our customers by bringing cutting-edge technology directly to the classroom,” General Rooney said. “This is another example of how our training has become more hands on … no longer is technical training just books, brick, and mortar.”

All images provided courtesy of the U.S. Air Force.