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    Ultrasound Technology Eliminates Needle Guesswork

    By Susan Kreimer, MS, contributor     

    Advances in technology are enabling anesthesia providers to visualize and pinpoint where to place a needle.

    GE Healthcare has designed a new version of compact ultrasound systems specifically for anesthesia delivery, called LOGIQ e Anesthesia Edition-Breakthrough 2008. In the world of emerging applications, such systems have become smaller, more powerful and take the guesswork out of needle insertion.

    Ultrasound-guided nerve blocks help avoid painful muscle contractions during nerve stimulation and reduce the volume of local anesthetic.

    For regional anesthesia nerve blocks and vascular access procedures, the GE-exclusive B-Steer Plus technology displays both the needle and anatomy in one image.

    “We’ve been able to harness the power of software-based architecture in our larger ultrasound system,” said Jeff Peiffer, global marketing manager for ultrasound emerging markets at GE Healthcare in Wauwatosa, Wis. “That has enabled us to take a lot of our high-end performance and migrate that to miniaturized technology.”

    Five to 10 years ago, anesthesia providers were essentially blind in the nerve-blocking technique, relying instead on feel of the needle or using a nerve stimulator as their guide.

    “We didn’t know exactly where we were injecting necessarily, and mistakes in the location of the needle tip could lead to serious complications,” said Ron Samet, M.D., assistant professor of anesthesiology and director of the regional anesthesia division at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. Potential complications include lung collapse, seizure or even cardiac arrest.

    Samet uses the new ultrasound technology to perform regional nerve blocks for extremity procedures—from shoulder, arm and hand surgeries to operations on the hip, knee, ankle and foot.

    “Patients undergoing those types of surgeries can benefit from peripheral nerve blocks,” Samet said. “Now, with ultrasound guidance, fine details of differentiation between nerve tissue and adjacent structures enable us to direct our needle tip to the exact location without guessing.”

    Other vendors—SonoSite and Zonare Medical Systems, for example—also have solid systems with good image quality and useful features.

    “Side by side, I have valued the superior image quality of the GE LOGIQ e,” Samet said. “But this must always be weighed among many other features such as simplicity, reliability, durability and cost. Many factors need to be considered when purchasing an ultrasound machine.”

    The cost of the new LOGIQ e ultrasound system for anesthesiology ranges between $40,000 and $60,000, depending on the options the customer selects, Peiffer said.

    Software presets enable clinicians who are not familiar with ultrasound physics to use the LOGIQ e with ease. Superior image quality benefits both experts and novices, who may need to manually adjust the machine.

    Although ultrasound-guided techniques could render regional anesthesia safer, so far few prospective randomized outcome studies have been performed and published.

    “If ultrasound-guided nerve blocks are done with proper training, the success rate is close to 100 percent and the complication rate is potentially becoming smaller,” Samet said. “We don’t have all the data out yet, but that’s where the data are heading.”



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