Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

How the hand-held ultrasound scanner works

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An ultrasound scanner the size of a large mobile phone has been launched in Europe and North America. The Vscan can be used to image the heart and other organs. The portable device could offer a rapid early diagnosis in hospital and the community.

It looks like a cross between a flip top phone and the medical scanner used by Dr McCoy in the TV series Star Trek. The Vscan is not science fiction but a hand-held ultrasound machine with a scanning wand attached, which has been approved for use in Europe and North America.

The portability of the device means it is likely to have a use outside hospitals - allowing scanning to be done wherever its needed, in the home or perhaps for the military - on the battlefield.

The handheld scanner, which will cost around £5,000, was developed by GE Healthcare. The company stresses that Vscan is not designed to replace existing scanning machines, but as a rapid diagnostic aid, to triage patients, who would then be referred for more specialist examination.

George Sutherland, professor of cardiac imaging at St George's, London, shows how the portable handheld ultrasound scanner works. He demonstrates it on one of his patients, Stefan Osafo.

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