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London’s Air Ambulance trials GE’s Vscan to See Inside Patients’ Bodies Before They Are Transported

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The Vscan is intended by London’s Air Ambulance to be used for FAST scanning in the abdomen, pelvis and pericardium – the outer covering sac of the heart.  

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The charity believes that the size and image quality provided by the Vscan has the potential to make a difference to their patients.

Five portable, pocket-sized visualization devices that can help physicians identify fluid presence as well as other life threatening conditions are being trialed by London’s Air Ambulance charity. London’s Air Ambulance, which provides pre-hospital medical care to victims of serious injury throughout London, has experienced increased demand during the Olympic Games and expects similar during the Paralympic Games period when London sees a significant increase in visitors.

For an eight week period, GE Healthcare’s Vscan*, roughly the footprint of a smartphone, and housing ultrasound technology, will enable London’s Air Ambulance team to visually and non-invasively inspect the inside of patient’s body prior to transport,  assessing the presence of fluid, and potentially speeding up clinical decisions and enhancing survival prospects.

The Vscan is intended by London’s Air Ambulance to be used for FAST scanning (focused assessment with sonography in trauma), a technique used in emergency medicine to quickly assess the presence of fluid (blood) in the abdomen, pelvis and pericardium – the outer covering sac of the heart.  Such a build-up of fluid (a possible risk after a blunt trauma injury) can cause cardiac tamponade, or compression of the heart, an emergency condition that often requires emergency surgery.

Currently, London’s Air Ambulance clinicians rely on clinical assessment rather than imaging to detect cardiac tamponade, or palpation (feeling for abdominal distension) to detect internal bleeding. Vscan enables visual assessment of internal fluid from ruptured organs or major blood vessels, even before clinical signs typically appear, and can therefore be used to help evaluate how severe the internal bleeding is.

Professor David Lockey, Research and Development Lead for London’s Air Ambulance, explains:  “London’s Air Ambulance prides itself on delivering medical innovation to increase the survival and recovery of its patients.  Vscan should enable our team to make faster and more accurate clinical decisions – when time is of the essence.  We have used portable ultrasound devices before but the size and image quality provided by the Vscan has the potential to make a difference to our patients.”

London’s Air Ambulance is the charity which runs London’s helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS).  The service provides pre-hospital medical care to victims of serious injury throughout London – serving the 10 million people who live, work and commute within the M25.  

Based at the Royal London Hospital and founded in 1989, the service is unique in that it operates 24/7, with the helicopter running in daylight hours and rapid response cars taking over at night. 

The Team, which at all times includes a Senior Trauma Doctor and a specially trained Paramedic, perform advanced medical interventions normally only found in the Hospital Emergency Department, in time critical, life threatening situations. 

London’s Air Ambulance has an international reputation for clinical excellence and delivers pioneering procedures which have been adopted across the world.

*Trademark of General Electric Company