Some children in isolated villages have never seen an ultrasound machine, nevermind a portable one. A recent New York Times article provided an in-depth look at how impactful low-cost scanning technology can be to regions that don’t have access to basic imaging modalities.
The primary focus of the article is on a handheld ultrasound scanner that can display images on an iPhone, dubbed the Butterfly iQ. Jonathan Rothberg, creator of the technology, has donated the scanners to medical charities operating in 13 low-income countries. Backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with others, the machines are primarily used to look for pneumonia—common in poorer countries and often misdiagnosed.
But the pocket-sized device has also been used to visualize a large goiter on the neck of a woman; and it has helped image an emaciated baby for possible tuberculosis, along with many similar cases.
For most of these situations, x-rays might be hours away and more advanced modalities even further.
“Two-thirds of the world’s population gets no imaging at all,” Rothberg said to the Times. “When you put something on a chip, the price goes down and you democratize it.”
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