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An ultrasound designed for rural Africa is now helping moms in Europe

According to the World Health Organization, 70 percent of medical equipment designed in developed nations does not work in developing world facilities. However, the opposite does not always hold true.

An ultrasound helping moms in Europe

Pregnant with her second child, Marit Strand immediately headed to St. Olav’s Hospital in Norway when she felt her water break. Then her contractions started, as she eagerly awaited the arrival of her newborn.  

In the meantime, she got to see her baby. That is, the real-time image of her baby. 

Her doctor, Dr. Birgitte Kahrs, a specialist in fetal medicine, showed Marit an image on a portable ultrasound so she could easily watch her child as it made its way into the world. 

Traditional physical examinations can often be uncomfortable or even painful for expectant mothers, but Marit found this ultrasound scan during labor to be much more comfortable.  

“Even its size offers some relief to our patients, as they tend to get nervous when they see a huge machine rolled into the room, thinking that something might be wrong. This machine is small enough to not cause any concern but also large enough to see a nice image on the screen,” says Dr. Kahrs of the Vscan Access from GE Healthcare [1]. “Additionally, doctors and midwives here appreciate that they’re able to easily take the ultrasound from one room to another with its battery capabilities.”  

This portable ultrasound was originally intended for front-line healthcare workers in Africa and Southeast Asia to help improve maternal health and provide care to patients even in the most remote settings. And while the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 70 percent of medical equipment designed in developed nations does not work in developing world facilities – the opposite does not hold true. Now, the Vscan Access is being used by doctors and patients to help moms around the world, including labor and delivery departments in Europe.

“The ultrasound is small and has good image quality – perfect for use in the labor wards,” Torbjorn Moe Eggebo, Chair of the Centre for Fetal Medicine, St. Olav’s, who has conducted extensive research on the use of ultrasound during labor and delivery adds, said. “Fetal position can easily be seen with trans-abdominal sonography while fetal station can be assessed using a trans-perineal scan.” 

vscan africa

For example, providers at St. Olav’s use the Vscan Access in both the delivery room and the maternity ward to monitor everything from the fetal position to the mother’s bladder after delivery.  

This ultrasound even takes a cue from the smartphones and tablets that are now ubiquitous throughout the world. “We find it easy to teach other midwives how to use the ultrasound system with its touch screen,” says Dr. Kahrs.  

[1] Products mentioned in the material may be subject to government regulation and may not be available in all countries. This product is not commercially available in the USA and is only available in certain African and European countries. Shipment and the effective sale in certain countries can only occur if the product is approved. Please contact your local GE representative for more information.