Point-of-care ultrasound technology has come to New York Methodist Hospital in Park Slope.
This important service is now available at the site of patient care in the Emergency Department, Intensive Care Unit, and other units where it can provide fast, accurate answers to many of the urgent questions that arise in acute situations.
“Traditionally, computed topography (CT) scans and X-rays have been the gold standard for answering diagnostic questions in many urgent situations. These tests will always be valuable tools,” said Gerardo Chiricolo, M.D., chief of NYM's Division of Point-of-Care Ultrasound. “However, if we need, for example, to know whether a woman clutching her side has a ruptured appendix, whether shortness of breath indicates a collapsed lung in a patient, or whether someone with chest pain has a pericardial effusion [fluid around the heart], point-of-care ultrasound can give us those answers in a fraction of the time it takes to perform a CT scan or x-ray. For any patient in crisis, point-of-care ultrasound can be life-saving.”
More and more physicians in specialties that traditionally do not offer training in ultrasound technology, such as internal medicine, critical care, anesthesiology and pulmonology, are a part of the Hospital's initiative to expand point-of-care ultrasound testing.
Ultrasound uses the principles of sonar, a technology originally developed for ships at sea. During an ultrasound examination, a computer uses sound waves to create a moving picture, called a sonogram, of the tissues or organs being examined. Ultrasound examinations performed on large, stationary machines are commonly associated with obstetrics, and often provide the first image a mother sees of her unborn child. Until the early 2000s, portable ultrasound units, like those now used in point-of-care situations, had image quality that was far inferior to traditional ultrasound machines. However, with increased miniaturization of ultrasound technology, easily transportable machines that produce high-quality sonograms have become available at a fraction of the cost of previous equipment. This has allowed NYM to expand ultrasound, and its benefits, to many key areas of the hospital.
"Allowing point-of-care physicians to get those crucial answers right away is a huge benefit to the patient," said Steven Garner, M.D., chairman of NYM’s Department of Radiology. "Another key advantage of ultrasound is that it provides diagnostic information without exposing the patient to radiation. The goal of point-of-care ultrasound is not to replace a comprehensive sonogram workup, but to complement it by providing answers to specific questions that can make a huge difference in the care of a very ill patient."
NYM’s Emergency Room, with an entrance on the corner of 7th Avenue and 6th Street, is open 24 hours a day.