Imagine being able to look at a fractured bone or a growing foetus in the comfort of your home. Awesome, right? Ultrasound is the most widely used medical diagnostic imaging modality. A US-based technology company, Butterfly Network Inc. has produced and launched Butterfly iQ a portable, handheld ultrasound scanner that connects to an iPhone and can be controlled using an app. The amazing thing is it can fit into your pocket! Smart, isn’t it?
As first reported by MIT Technology Review, Dr. John Martin, a surgeon decided to test the device on himself after feeling discomfort around his throat. The black and grey ultrasound images which appear on his iPhone was enough to tell him that he was in trouble. The mass turned out to be a squamous cell cancer. Dr. Martin has undergone surgery and he believes that the technology could be taken further to at-home-care, whereby people can actually carry out medical imaging on themselves.
HOW IT WORKS
Butterfly iQ is powered by the world’s only Ultrasound-on-Chip™ technology which produces little noise while using a small amount of electricity. It replaces expensive and fragile piezo crystals used in traditional systems with a single silicon chip. The chip can emit all three types of ultrasonic waves required to capture specific imaging depths and frequencies to view different parts of the whole body. Instead of getting sound waves through a vibrating crystal, like a traditional ultrasound, the Butterfly iQ sends sound waves into the body using 9,000 tiny drums etched onto a semiconductor chip.
Butterfly uses a mobile app that provides real-time AI interpretation and ultrasound imaging. The probe works only with Apple compatible devices and it requires a monthly subscription. Butterfly iQ can be likened to a digital camera used to see inside the body.
- Any medical healthcare can easily use the device.
- It is cost-saving. The price of a Butterfly iQ device is tagged at $2000 while the traditional ultrasound machine is sold at $10000.
- Butterfly iQ allows medical professionals quick access to medical imaging thus helping them to better detect and treat diseases discovered via ultrasound.
- Users also have access to a HIPAA-compliant cloud platform that connects medical professionals from around the world so they can receive up-to-date diagnoses and collaborative insights on complicated diseases.
- Veterinary doctors will benefit greatly from this invention. They wouldn’t have to refer the animals to radiographers for medical imaging investigations except in special cases.
- It doesn’t subject the patient to radiation unlike X-ray tests and it reduces infection risk to the hospital since medical imaging can now be carried out by the bedside.
Price and difficulty of use are limitations of the traditional ultrasound machine. Dr. Jonathan Rothberg, an American Scientist, Inventor, and Founder of Butterfly Network Inc (best known for inventing high-speed, “Next-Gen” DNA sequencing) hopes to eliminate these limitations in the medical field with Butterfly iQ. His goal is to make medical imaging as accessible as a stethoscope thereby ushering in a new era of healthcare and democratizing the healthcare system. Butterfly iQ POCUS (point-of-care ultrasound) is a welcomed innovation in this COVID 19 pandemic situation.
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