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October 20, 2011

Va. paramedics to test ultrasound use

By Patrick Wilson
The Virginian-Pilot

NORFOLK, Va. — Technology that saves lives in hospitals might soon do the same aboard ambulances.

About 90 Norfolk paramedics will use ultrasound machines on patients to search for health hazards, such as blood in the belly, that they currently have no way to detect, said Dr. Barry Knapp, the medical director for Norfolk Fire-Rescue and an emergency room physician.

That knowledge could help emergency physicians detect problems before patients arrive at the hospital, Knapp said.

"I think it will elevate the standard of care that we can offer our patients," Knapp said Tuesday during a demonstration of the equipment at Fire Station No. 1 on St. Paul's Boulevard.

Eastern Virginia Medical School is partnering with Norfolk paramedics on a study to determine the effectiveness of placing the equipment in ambulances. Results will be published in a journal, he said. An important focus will be whether paramedics can accurately identify patient conditions, said Knapp, also one of the medical school's associate professors.

Machines made by Sono-Site Inc. will be put on 12 ambulances. The company provided the devices, which cost $60,000 to $70,000 each, and about $52,000 in training, Knapp said.

After they get public input at meetings this month, Norfolk paramedics will use the machines on trauma and cardiac arrest patients. They estimate that about 2,000 cases a year could involve ultrasound machines and expect to evaluate about 250 patients for the study.

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