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By Hein Kaiser


New technology helps with rapid assessment of injuries

The VScan will have its mettle tested during the holidays, as South Africa is notorious for its unsafe roads and number of fatalities and near fatalities.

New technology may end up saving countless lives during emergency medical transportation. Now, more accurate injury assessment, almost immediately after an accident, is possible through a new handheld sonar device developed by General Electric.

The VScan Air enables instant body scanning that will aid paramedics and doctors to determine the nature of – or receive an indication of – the severity of an injury before a patient reaches hospital.

Netcare 911’s aero medical unit, as well as critical care ambulances, will become the first emergency responders to make use of the device. The companies demonstrated the VScan at a launch in Midrand yesterday.

More insight into injuries

Simply by focusing the device onto an area of the body, an instant visual is transmitted to a mobile device, such as a cellphone, and allows emergency personnel to gain greater insight into an accident victim’s injuries.

These ultrasound images can also be forwarded, ahead of a patient’s arrival, to the receiving trauma centre via e-mail, WhatsApp or even SMS.

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“At the scene of an emergency, we need to perform a rapid assessment of the patient’s condition to determine the extent of their injuries, which informs the next steps in their treatment,” said Netcate 911 managing director Craig Grindell.

“If the person has critical injuries, advanced life support must begin immediately to be most effective, but we first need to identify what is wrong to make the best possible clinical decisions for the patient.”

New technology helps with rapid assessment of injuries
Paramedic Gerhard Louw demonstrates the Vscan Air during an event held at The Netcare 911 Ultimate Heli port in Midrand, 13 December 2022. Picture Neil McCartney

Grindell added that previously, scans were not able to be performed in transit.

He said ultrasound equipment was always large and cumbersome, ergo impractical in limited spaces such as helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.

“The ultrasound equipment we used up to now provided valuable insights into the internal injuries or presence of blood, and these devices also took longer to set up, meaning their use was not always as practical when time is of the essence in saving lives.”

The VScan, he said, will change the face of emergency medicine forever – and for the better. The device’s use is not limited to incident injury emergencies.

Netcare 911’s critical care operations manager Charne van der Berg said its use extends to several other emergency situations, too.

She cited a heart attack as an example: “If the patient is in cardiac failure, we can now see the heart and which area is affected properly to initiate the right treatment immediately.

“This ultrasound device also guides us in accurately placing intravenous lines, and when we’re performing intubation. It helps ensure that we have passed the vocal cords and reached the correct position to keep the airway open.”

Medical care to rural areas

Trauma surgeon Dr MS Moeng agreed and enthused about its potential to empower first responders in saving lives. He listed events like an abdominal aortic aneurysm, where an aorta artery swells, could bleed, and could become life-threatening, through to strokes, chest pains and even breathing difficulties.

He also noted that greater application of the device could take key medical care to rural areas where access to sophisticated technology has been limited, or even non-existent until now.

The VScan will have its mettle tested during the holidays, as South Africa is notorious for its unsafe roads and number of fatalities and near fatalities.

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Grindell said advanced life-support paramedics will now be able to perform an E-Fast [extended focused assessment with sonography in trauma] scan to identify injuries, in transit.

“This will enable more rapid decision-making such as routing patients to the most appropriate trauma centre. This can make a definitive difference in providing emergency medical services and help achieve better outcomes.”

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