New air ambulance body scanners could be difference between life and death

Dr Jon Barratt, POCUS lead with the East Anglian Air Ambulance

Dr Jon Barratt, POCUS lead with the East Anglian Air Ambulance, looking at images transmitted from the new handheld scanners used by the EAAA medics - Credit: EAST ANGLIAN AIR AMBULANCE

Air ambulance medical teams have taken on board new equipment which will enable them to speed up diagnosis of treatment for seriously ill and injured patients.

Following a successful trial, the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) is now using an innovative handheld ultrasound device on every mission.

It means scans can be done mid-air and information quickly relayed to its emergency teams on standby, speeding up treatments.

The Air Ambulance was called to a Suffolk town this afternoon after a man suffered from a fall. PHOT

The East Anglian Air Ambulance was called to Beccles. PHOTO: Simon Parker - Credit: Simon Parker

The smartphone-connected, point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) device can look deep within internal organs and scan the entire body.

Dr Jon Barratt, POCUS lead with the EAAA, said: “We’ve been trialling the Butterfly iQTM portable ultrasound for a number of months and the value it brings is transformative to the care we’re able to provide our patients.

The Butterfly scanning device can be used by the East Anglian Air Ambulance for all over body scans and to look deep into...

The Butterfly scanning device can be used for all over body scans and to look deep into organs - Credit: EAST ANGLIAN AIR AMBULANCE

"It allows us to scan multiple areas of the body from one device which means we can see exactly what is going on with patients while we’re on-scene, enabling us to make diagnoses and implement the right treatment much more quickly. In some cases, this can be the difference between life and death."

The EAAA team now has the ability to quickly share scans to be remotely reviewed by clinical experts using the smartphone connected device and secure cloud-based server.

Dr Jon Barratt, POCUS lead with the East Anglian Air Ambulance, with the new Butterfly scanner 

Dr Jon Barratt, POCUS lead with the East Anglian Air Ambulance, with the new Butterfly scanner - Credit: EAST ANGLIAN AIR AMBULANCE

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Andrew Downes, EAAA head of service improvement and clinical quality, said: “For the first time, senior members of the team can see what our crews are seeing on-scene and quickly provide their analysis,.

“It allows us to quickly respond to the critical care of patients and escalate our response as needed. Another game changer is the ability to provide remote training which is particularly important in the current pandemic.” 

The Butterfly iQTM can look deep into the body and look for damage to vital organs such as the heart or lungs.

The new Butterfly handheld scanner kit being used air ambulance medics 

The new Butterfly handheld scanner kit being used air ambulance medics - Credit: EAST ANGLIAN AIR AMBULANCE

EAAA also hope to use this technology, in time, to enhance the care its teams can currently offer some patients, by utilising the large blood vessels in the groin to administer enhanced lifesaving interventions. For example, this could have a large impact on the treatment of cardiac arrest patients and relies on the enhanced imaging capabilities that the device can provide. 

Over the last 20 years, EAAA has grown from a weekly service to a 24/7 operation covering Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire and has been tasked over 30,000 times.

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