Carilion, Roanoke Valley first responders partnering for research study on a new ultrasound device

The device hooks up to an iPad or iPhone and can help diagnose pneumonia, lung collapses, infections and COPD

When Botetourt County Fire & EMS get an emergency call, more often than not, it’s for respiratory distress.

ROANOKE, Va. – When Botetourt County Fire & EMS get an emergency call, more often than not, it’s for respiratory distress.

“From our data, we were at about 10%,” said Chief Jason Ferguson.

In order to better diagnose and treat patients before they even get to the ER, Carilion Clinic is partnering with local first responders in the Roanoke Valley to test out new ultrasound equipment.

Ferguson said he’s excited to be a part of this groundbreaking research.

“It really helps put emergency medical services in Southwest Virginia on the map,” said Ferguson. “We’re evaluating our practices so that we have evidence-based medicine. That’s the practice that you see in the hospital, the practice you see at the doctor’s office in how they treat and care for you and we have to have that same scientific approach.”

Typically, first responders use devices like cardiac monitors, stethoscopes, and check oxygen levels to assess patients at the scene of an emergency. But now with the handheld ultrasound, it gives them eyes where they never had eyes before.

“It’s giving us a picture that we’ve never had before, which just increases our level of assessment to be more specific and accurate in the medications that we provide or the treatments that we do give,” said Ferguson.

The device hooks up to an iPad or iPhone and can help diagnose pneumonia, lung collapses, infections and COPD. Seconds count, especially in Botetourt County, where a trip to the ER can take 30 to 40 minutes.

“We have a huge impact on the success of the outcome of the patient if we know what’s going on and how we can help,” said Ferguson.

Dr. Carol Bernier, Carilion Clinic’s EMS Fellowship Director, said more accurate treatment can shorten a patient’s hospital stay.

“If we could prove that we could pinpoint the treatment, that we could tailor your treatment so it would be effective and appropriate and hopefully turn you around quickly and get you home sooner,” said Bernier.

They say this is the future of emergency medicine and could be the new standard of care in Southwest Virginia and beyond.

“We’re hoping that this is going to just change the face of EMS care in the valley,” said Bernier.


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