- Title: Doctor diagnoses own cancer with ultrasound 'time machine'
- Date: 2nd October 2019
- Summary: ULTRASOUND IMAGE SHOWN ON TABLET SCREEN
- Embargoed: 16th October 2019 10:25
- Keywords: Butterfly iQ ultrasound Dr. John Martin full-body ultrasound handheld ultrasound pediatric pneumonia Butterfly Network
- Location: LONDON / NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM / KABALE, UGANDA
- City: LONDON / NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM / KABALE, UGANDA
- Country: United Kingdom
- Topics: Health/Medicine
- Reuters ID: LVA00DAZENH3V
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: It was when Dr. John Martin identified a cancerous lump in his own neck that he knew the device in his hand could revolutionise medical diagnoses.
Martin was performing tests on the prototype Butterfly iQ ultrasound device during trials for FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) approval when he discovered the cancer at the base of his tongue - as well as metastatic tumours in his neck.
Martin, the Butterfly Network's chief medical officer, told Reuters he would normally have ignored the small lump - something he thinks doctors tend to do. But the ease of discovering the tumour meant he could take action much earlier, avoiding the need for chemotherapy.
"It's a time machine," Martin said. "It conquers time. It reduced the amount of treatment I needed because I had a diagnosis early. I see Butterfly doing the same thing for millions of people around the globe."
The highly portable device works in tandem with an app on a connected smartphone or tablet device, enabling clinicians and patients to view imaging results in real time. The Butterfly Network says the iQ unit is the first handheld, whole body ultrasound system and makes medical imaging much more accessible and affordable.
According to the World Health Organization, one-half to two-thirds of the world's population has no access to imaging, and the company has embarked on a number of global partnerships to change that.
Alongside Canadian charity Bridge to Health, the company has been working in remote villages including in Uganda and Kenya to train local clinicians to use medical imaging to diagnose a range of medical issues, such as pediatric pneumonia.
Martin believes the Butterfly can make just as much difference in less affluent regions as it can in developed countries.
"In the developing world, every 90 seconds a mother dies of a complication from childbirth... Most of the major problems that actually face these people can be solved with simple ultrasound," Martin said.
While the company hopes to make a difference in the developing world, it says the iQ has already been adopted by thousands of physicians in the U.S. since it was launched in 2018.
Across the Atlantic, Dr. Jonny Wilkinson has also been using the device in the intensive care unit of Northampton General Hospital in central England.
Wilkinson said the Butterfly has completely changed how doctors diagnose and treat patients, namely due to the ease of use over more cumbersome devices.
"Getting a cart-based device to a patient who needs an ultrasound scan or imaging set in a hurry is extremely difficult. One that you can just simply take out of your pocket, plug in and you're ready to scan has absolutely revolutionised the way that I care for my patients."
Wilkinson said the difference has been huge, allowing him to view and make diagnoses at the point of care, without having to move the patient or delay a scan. He's also found great advantages in the Butterfly's cloud-based platform, which helps physicians seek expert opinions or collaborate on complicated cases while maintaining doctor-patient confidentiality.
The size and immobility of older machines is partially due to being built around fragile and expensive piezo crystals, which are wired and turned to different wavelengths specific to different parts of the body. Butterfly have replaced this with a single silicon chip that can emulate all three ultrasonic wave patterns on a single iQ device.
Martin thinks the true value of the technology lies in the fact that it replaces the need for multiple probes, nullifying the logistic issues and high cost of older systems.
"We can do that with one device quickly and it's 2,000 dollars, which is orders of magnitude cheaper than every other system," Martin said.
The iQ currently retails in Britain at Â£1,699 - over 20 times less expensive than the Â£40,000 price tag on traditional ultrasound machines.
Butterfly says its technology will soon be enhanced by augmented reality-based guidance to help users position the probe and achieve the best possible image.
SonoSite, the established ultrasound diagnostics arm of Fujifilm, have also signalled that imaging technology is moving to mobile platforms after they announced plans to develop phone-based artificial intelligence systems to analyse ultrasound images.
Given the fact that some established medical tools can be rendered next-to-useless in noisy wards and emergency rooms, Wilkinson thinks the move to mobile imaging is definitely a giant leap forward in health care provision.
"I think we're finding things that we were never going to find before when using basic clinical examinations, such as with stethoscopes. It's opened a new world for us."
(Production: Matthew Stock, Stuart McDill, Ben Dangerfield)
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