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Ultrasound tool could save lives in an emergency

Ellen Abbott
Joseph Wlostowski uses a portable ultrasound device on a volunteer during a training session.

Some emergency medical service personnel in New York state have started using technology that lets them take ultrasounds during emergency situations.

Joseph Wlostowski, a clinical educator for Mercy Flight Central is showing EMS professionals in Syracuse how a small portable ultrasound device can be used by first responders to identify life threatening injuries before getting patients to the hospital.

“It’s a tablet, a PC, the size of an iPad," Wlostowski said. "Currently at Mercy Flight Central, we are employing them on our aircraft.”

The device lets EMS providers see ultrasound images the same way it’s done in a doctor’s office.

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO
A volunteer is scanned with a mobile ultrasound device.

Wlostowski says that identifying life-threatening injuries early on can save lives.  

“We’re looking for just yes or no questions," Wlostowski explained. "Do they have a collapsed lung? Yes or no. Do they have blood in their abdomen? Yes or no. Is their heart working? Yes or no. We’re not doing big measurements, we’re just using it for yes or no questions.”

Once they have these answers, medics can take better care of victims and hospitals can better prepare for them.

Wlostowski says he has seen it work in the field, following an accident involving a woman in western New York.

"She had a lot of abdominal trauma, and we were actually able to detect the fact that she had bleeding inside her abdomen," Wlostowski said. "This is in western New York, so we’re going to Rochester, Strong Hospital. And we were able to notify them that she had a positive Fast exam, that’s what we call it, and they were able to expeditiously get her to an operating room where they saved her life.”  

He says it would be a great tool for EMS teams on the ground, and Mercy Flight is expanding training of the device. But he says the non-profit air medical team is the only emergency provider that uses the tool in New York state so far.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.