Point-of-care ultrasound can save lives in general practice

Doctor reveals potential of ultrasound for saving lives outside of hospital settings

The portability and ease of use of the latest generation of point-of-care ultrasound systems means they are increasingly being used outside of the traditional hospital setting, with a number of general practitioners now training to use ultrasound for a wide range of applications.

Dr Helen Williams, who divides her time between general practice and the Urgent Care Centre at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, explained the benefits: "I first became interested in ultrasound in 1999, when I was working in a termination of pregnancy clinic and picked up an ectopic pregnancy during a routine dating scan.

“That case made me realise that ultrasound has so many potential applications, and so I purchased a small portable machine for use in my general practice. I have since used ultrasound in a variety of settings, both in primary care and in hospitals, and currently have a SonoSite Edge system, which travels everywhere with me."

"Although ultrasound use is becoming more widely accepted in primary care, its use is still not widespread, despite the potentially life-saving applications. This is a real shame because, even as a GP, I think that you can genuinely save a life every few years through routinely using ultrasound.

“For example, a few months ago, I identified a large, potentially-fatal liver abscess in a patient complaining of shortness of breath and pain in the right side of his chest. He was taken straight to A&E, had it drained the same day, and was virtually back to normal within a month. It really can make that much of a difference.”

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