There aren’t enough common medical conditions that you would monitor with a personal ultrasound. Also it’s a tough skill to learn without a solid background in anatomy. This would deter many.
Primary care doctors (eg family, internal, and emergency medicine) will benefit most from affordable ultrasound. We are learning that it’s a powerful diagnostic tool when used along side the physical exam. Some zealots have equated bedside ultrasound to be the biggest advancement to medicine since antibiotics. This notion I feel is exaggerated, but— it taps into the underlying excitement in the medical community for bedside ultrasound.
Here are some sample cases.
Patient came in with all the symptoms and findings of a stroke— altered mental status, inability to move their left arm. Before giving the treatment for a stroke, a potent blood thinner called tPA, the doctor decided to do an informal ultrasound of the patients heart. He found the patient had a massive dissection of their aorta. The patient wasn’t getting adequate blood flow to their arm or brain. Had the patient been given tPA they most likely would have died. A quick bedside ultrasound revealed a difficult diagnosis and saved the patients life.
Another case- a young female came in unresponsive and without a pulse. Her husband said she had complained of belly pain for the past several days but nothing else. While doing cpr we placed an ultrasound on her abdomen and saw a massive amount of blood in her belly. A pelvic binder was applied and we immediately started massive transfusion for presumed ruptured ectopic pregnancy. In this case the easy access to ultrasound gave us a diagnosis in under a minute.
Both of these cases occurred in the emergency department. Of all specialties I think emergency medicine has been quickest to adopt bedside ultrasound. Other fields however could benefit too. Ultrasound is underutilized in family medicine and internal medicine clinics. Making it affordable, say close in price to a stethoscope, should encourage its use in these specialties and lead to more discoveries of its use as a diagnostic aide.
1. patients with an abdominal aneurysm may wish to monitor its size with a personal ultrasound. This seems extreme.
In my experience, ultrasound has revolutionized trauma care - basically getting rid of the invasive Diagnostic Peritoneal Lavage (where they put a needle in the abdomen, inject liquid, suck it out, and then see if it has blood in it).
Other examples where it can be used in a primary care setting:
1. Carotid stenosis (narrowing) - we know that this can be a cause of stroke and listening by stethoscope is likely useless (the really narrowed arteries don't produce much noise). Having ultrasound that is cheap and accessible might help catch more of these cases in a primary care setting
2. Heart defects resulting in athlete sudden deaths. Having a primary care doctor evaluate an athlete's heart during a sports physical with ultrasound might help catch some of these cases.
3. Outpatient evaluation of deep vein thrombosis in sedentary populations. This is important because this can help stop blood clots to the lungs.
However, as with your examples, these use cases all involve a medically trained operator. Like you, I am not seeing a lot of potential consumer use cases.
I immediately thought of a non-medical use case.
A pregnancy and birth in Singapore costs $5-20k, so an extra $2k is not that much to be able to see your baby move and grow whenever you like as opposed to having to wait for your monthly appointment (and perhaps post photos on Instagram). It's a bit much for me but I might have bought one for $100.
Some redditors working in US ER departments complained of mothers turning up with "complications" mid-pregnancy because of the mandatory ultrasound that follows, allowing them to see their child, at which point their symptoms mysteriously vanish and they head home smiling.
I'm not kidding, it's very real: http://forever-yours.us/3d-4d-ultrasounds-2/
I dont think I have ever encountered a virus that cloned images. The only way I can even imagine it true is if a malfunctioning root kit was somehow installed and affected file writes....but in 30 years..haven't seen it. Likely they were just lazy so they kept handing out the same image figuring no one would know.
Our first child came very late, and in those last weeks we downloaded a "baby heart monitor" on our iphone - it simply used the microphone with some isolation / amplification. We pressed the microphone end of the phone into the abdomen wall, and when it works we heard an amplified heartbeat out the speakers - very reassuring. But when it didn't work - when we couldn't find the heartbeat - we worried. Is it a false negative? Or should we rush to the hospital?
You could hear baby heart and also blood rushing to placenta. And those have distinct sounds and places you could check.
This is what we used and it is more than enough and you can carry it with yourself. Their customer service is also really nice, but you will not need it. Buy extra gel for doppler and you will fine.
That's terrible :-( I know many GPs in Australia would love to do the ultrasound for them + bill for it, but it would be pretty affordable. This case is literally the reason mentioned at GP conferences for why you could buy an ultrasound - to make pregnant women happy because they see the pictures.
I think "pocket" ultrasound will be (and is being) adopted by EMS well before it makes inroads in primary care.
The BodyMetrix system uses A-mode (Amplitude Modulation) which essentially uses one signal or pulse and plots the amplitude change over depth. The changes in amplitude correspond to differences in tissue. [I conclude they use A-mode from the abstracts of the papers linked in their Science and Validation section]
The Butterfly Network system is a B-mode (Brightness Modulation) one. These have traditionally had many signals and are used to create the greyscale images commonly seen when referring to ultrasound. B-mode imaging has traditionally required a fair amount more in terms of hardware, software, and thus cost.
That being said-- the trick for him turned out to be stopping soda, and keeping a water bottle by his bed and drinking a gulp of water everytime he woke up-- basically staying hydrated during the evening, and at all other times.
Just wanted to mention this in case it was of any use. Also, keep an eye on RCC. :-/
Now, for the hacker/maker community - maybe you won't know this offhand. But are there applications for ultrasound outside of medical? Would it be good for 3d scanning internal structures of a certain size? Can it find/detect cracks inside substrates, like how Xrays is used in weld defect detection?
Im just as curious at the non-medical as the medical. And it'd be damn nice to be able to ultrasound myself and go, "that dont look right". Im not a doc, but I live with my body 24/7.
Out of curiosity's sake: IIUC blood thinners help a patient with an ischaemic stroke, but are harmful for patients with hemorrhagic stroke. Am I right? If so, how do people usually quickly rule out hemorrhagic stroke?
Speed of sound in metals is much larger than speed of sound in water or air. I'm unaware of liquids that could be used in place of USG gel for examining metal objects (maybe mercury? but that would be bad from the environmental and health/safety POV).