The scanners—called PoCUS, for point-of-care ultrasound— were designed and...
The scanners—called PoCUS, for point-of-care ultrasound— were designed and provided by Burnaby-based Clarius Mobile Health.
Source: University of British Columbia

mhealth: A portable ultrasound scanner for COVID-19

Researchers are collaborating with local partners to establish a network of portable, handheld ultrasound scanners that can soon accelerate COVID-19 diagnosis in British Columbia and potentially beyond.

The scanners pair a locally-developed commercial ultrasound device with a secure online library of lung ultrasound images and a specially developed artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm, allowing health care practitioners to diagnose COVID-19 at the point of care—almost instantly.

Family doctors and acute care units in rural B.C. will be the first users, with 50 units ready for deployment. More than 30 additional scanners will be distributed to urban acute care sites managed by Vancouver Coastal Health.

The project is co-led by Dr. Oron Frenkel, an emergency physician at St. Paul’s Hospital and a clinical assistant professor at UBC’s faculty of medicine; Dr. Teresa Tsang, UBC cardiologist and professor of medicine and director of echocardiography at Vancouver General Hospital and UBC Hospital; Purang Abolmaesumi, professor of electrical and computer engineering; and Robert Rohling, professor of electrical and computer engineering and mechanical engineering. “With this scanner, we can potentially detect COVID-19 lung changes earlier while waiting for lab test results,” says Dr. Tsang. “This may also enable us to anticipate who will likely deteriorate rapidly, so that we can support these patients optimally from the start.”

Data from the field suggests that the scanner can detect up to 33 per cent more cases of COVID-19 pneumonia than some current lab tests. “It’s easy to use, so even physicians with less experience can obtain fast, accurate results,” said Dr. Tsang.

The team will build Canada’s first ultrasound library for lung disease and will use AI to enable the handheld scanners to accurately detect patterns typical of COVID-19 and other lung diseases at the point of care. “This project demonstrates UBC’s expertise in applied AI research,” said Purang Abolmaesumi, the Canada Research Chair in Biomedical Engineering at UBC. “With these scanners, we showcase UBC’s and B.C.’s cutting-edge capabilities in developing AI technology for medical imaging, with direct impact on our community and the Canadian health care system.”

Robert Rohling, who also leads the Institute for Computing, Information and Cognitive Systems at UBC, highlighted the different contributions of the project members and partners. “Providing accurate, timely diagnostics for COVID-19 is a tremendous challenge. What really helps to solve it is the diverse and talented team. Each member is a leader in their field but more important is that doctors are working with engineers and UBC is working with B.C. companies.”

The scanners can be used for point-of-care ultrasound (commonly abbreviated PoCUS), and were designed and provided by Burnaby-based Clarius Mobile Health. They can be disinfected easily between patients and come with a mobile phone app for ease of use.

Author: Lou Corpuz-Bosshart

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