Portable Ultrasound Machines Can Help EMS Professionals Diagnose Injuries

May 19, 2014

Most Central New Yorkers probably picture an ultrasound machine as large unit in a dark room at a hospital or doctor's office.  Well, advances in technology have shrunk the devices to about the size of a tablet, and they're small enough to carry in the tight confines of a rescue helicopter. 

Nurse practitioner Carol Lee demonstrates a portable ultrasound machine to EMS professionals Monday at Onondaga Community College.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
   Director of EMS Education at SUNY Upstate Christian Knutsen says ultrasound machines once relegated to hospitals have come a long way from the large units that radiologists struggled to read not that long ago.  
  EMS professionals Monday got hands-on training with the portable units on real patients.  The workshop at Onondaga Community College marked the beginning of national EMS week.  
Clinical educator and flight nurse with MercyFlight Central Joseph Wlostowski (right) helps an EMT guide the wand to the ultrasound to generate images on the machine (bottom).
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
  But the devices are still relatively new, so they're expensive.  
  Each unit costs anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000, putting them out of reach for all but the largest EMS operations.  Knutsen with SUNY Upstate says it makes more sense for agencies like rural metro to adopt the technology first.  He expects to see other EMS providers pick up the units as the price comes down, probably within the next 3 to 5 years.