Mini Ultrasound – Fad or Necessity?


Siemens Signos

I came across this news video about pocket ultrasounds (see screen grab from video above), alleging that they are “revolutionizing” emergency medicine.

The units are small, but, at a weight of almost 2 pounds, they appear to be too bulky for carrying around in a pocket. Definitely small enough to grow some legs if they’re left in a room somewhere, though.
According to this article, the images they produce aren’t as good as those from traditional portable ultrasounds, and with the small screens, I wonder how well they would be at picking up small abnormalities on scans.

Aside from saving the trip out of the room to wheel in the portable ultrasound machine, I’m not sure what the advantage in having them is.

Oh, and they cost $4000 each.

The video shows the Siemens Signos. Siemens is currently marketing the Acuson P10, but I found a link about the same model on Medgadget from 2007. And I haven’t heard much about pocket ultrasounds in the past 3 years.

So are “pocket” ultrasounds like those early “brick” cell phones – a step toward ubiquity for medical personnel? Or are they a fad that will pass as the notebook models penetrate the market further?


  1. Dr. Greenbbs on

    As an avid ED ultrasound user, i’m not so sure that it’s a horrible idea.

    For the larger, better funded ED’s, an ultrasound such as the Sonosite S or M-Turbo that can run tens of thousands of dollars (oh, say 30k or so) isn’t out of the question, and is probably needed due to advances in EM and the desire to provide higher level of service (especially in the ultra competitive suburban settings)

    But where i can see this taking foot is in the more rural ED’s or smaller ED’s where they can’t necessarily afford a bad-ass ultrasound, but could get this. You could rapidly diagnose AAA’s, pericardial effusions, tension pneumos, place quick IV’s if needed. It would revolutionize rapid diagnosis in those smaller out of the way ED’s that don’t have the CT tech there 24/7, or are so far out that truly rapid diagnosis could mean the difference between life or death.

  2. Mark Wheatley on

    I think it’s “a step toward ubiquity for medical personnel.” being able to have visibility, even not as fine as higher resolution machines, in the field (“is there internal bleeding? free air in the abdomen?) will lead to great things almost I think as the invention of blood pressure cuff.

  3. Spoke to a radiologist about these, he claims within ten years we will all have one, just like a steth’. Now the obviouse question, when will it be an app for the ipod/phone?

  4. Mama On A Budget on

    I saw a commercial for GE or something where they showed a traveling doc (think Doctors Without Borders) using one of these. For *that* purpose… I think it’s a great idea. Or as the first commenter said, for rural med (my kids were born when we lived in a rural area where you had to call ahead to the ER (I could actually call it an ER – okay, an E2R since there were only 2 beds) before coming so they could call a doctor in. There is NO WAY, aside from a generous donation, that they could afford to keep updating $40,000 ultrasound machines. $4000… that’s more likely.

    Or at the rural clinic where I saw my doctor – where the Doppler would cut out after 8 seconds and would have to be restarted over and over during a prenatal appointment to try and get a heart rate – to the point that I had them switch over to a fetoscope for accuracy. That clinic was an actual ER – where the room doubled as a storage closet. *IF* the had an ultrasound there, it was probably about as old as me. Chances are $4000 would be steep for them, too… but much more likely than a big machine.

  5. Both GE and SonoSite have new hand-held systems, they are the GE Venue 40 and SonoSite Nanomaxx. I think if the companies with a proven track record with the larger dinosaurs produce a hand-held device you can feel confident that the image quality is there. Through the years software is migrated from one platform to another as technology allows – reference the cell phone comment.

    The markets that these folks are going after have space and time constrictions so it makes sense to have a smaller device. The targets are anesthesia, interventional, critical care, etc. I’ll be at AIUM this week so I’m looking forward to seeing them in action!

    To answer the question about an App – YES! SonoSite introduced SonoAccess last November.

    I posted the info on my own blog:

  6. Portable ultrasound has been receiving a lot of attention in EMS. We are most likely going to be replacing intubation with use of alternative airway devices. This is because of a lack of opportunity to use the skill.

    While ultrasound will not create airway problems, misreading an ultrasound may encourage actions that are bad for patients.

    How often would this be used in EMS? How would we develop and maintain competence if it is mostly used to confirm that the heart is not beating to pronounce patients with asystole or PEA?

    i am not opposed to improved technology. I think that waveform capnography is extremely useful. I just wish the local EDs would catch up with EMS on its use. Dr. Deitch and Dr. Krauss have done great work on capnography.

  7. Soronel Haetir on

    They need to come up with a better name for this product. my screen reader pronounces Signos very close to “sickness”. Which when coupled with ‘Siemens’ sounds almost like “seaman sickness”. Just not very auspicious.

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