Northern Health to receive ultrasound scanners to diagnose COVID-19

VANCOUVER, B.C. – UBC researchers have developed a portable handheld ultrasound scanner that should help accelerate COVID-19 diagnosis in rural areas like Northern Health.

Northern Health has confirmed 17 units will be spread throughout the region to help with the diagnosis of COVID-19.

The scanners pair a locally developed ultrasound device with a secure online library of lung ultrasound images with a specially developed artificial intelligence (A.I.) algorithm. This allows health care practitioners to diagnose COVID-19 at the point of care—almost instantly.

Family doctors and acute care units in rural B.C. will the first to use the device.

The project is co-led by Dr. Oron Frenkel, an emergency physician at St. Paul’s Hospital and a clinical assistant professor at UBC’s faculty of medicine; Dr. Teresa Tsang, UBC cardiologist and professor of medicine and director of echocardiography at Vancouver General Hospital and UBC Hospital; Purang Abolmaesumi, professor of electrical and computer engineering; and Robert Rohling, professor of electrical and computer engineering and mechanical engineering.

“With this scanner, we can potentially detect COVID-19 lung changes earlier while waiting for lab test results,” says Tsang. “This may also enable us to anticipate who will likely deteriorate rapidly, so that we can support these patients optimally from the start.”

Data from the field suggests that the scanner can detect up to 33 percent more cases of COVID-19 pneumonia than some current lab tests.

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