Like big-city hospitals, Valley West has ultrasound for emergency patients

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When you or a loved one must be treated in the emergency room, the scenario is likely to be stressful. And moving a patient from the emergency room to another location for diagnostic tests only heightens that tension.

Capitalizing on the "bedside" portion of "good bedside manner," Valley West Community Hospital in Sandwich offers ultrasound technology right in the Emergency Department - a rarity for a rural, community hospital, according to James Fedinec, MD, ED director.

"This is a real advantage for us and for the patients," Fedinec said. "There is no moving the patient out of the ED, so we can get a look at things really quickly. The machine is wheeled to the patient's bedside."

The ultrasound technology can look at lots of body systems from head to toe, Dr. Fedinec explained. The technology is often used to create moving pictures of the heart to assess how blood is flowing and if there is a dangerous amount of fluid surrounding the heart.

An "echo" or echocardiography test is painless, and uses only safe sound waves to look at the heart. There is no risk of radiation exposure.

"We really like having this in the ED because there are times when we can pinpoint a problem really quickly and get the patient the help they need rapidly. That's the real benefit-when a patient's life is on the line," Dr. Fedinec said.

Emergency bedside ultrasound has multiple uses; it can reveal an object lodged in the eye, fluid buildup in the lungs, traumatic bleeding in the chest and abdomen, and problems with the gall bladder and the aorta. In those cases, the images are far more informative for doctors than a traditional X-ray.

Valley West has used ultrasound technology in the emergency room since 2007, and Fedinec said his staff has been specially trained to use it. "Not all small hospitals have staffs in the ED who are skilled at using this diagnostic tool. That also sets us apart," he said.

Generally, smaller hospitals only have ultrasound equipment in the actual radiology department. This can throw off the timetable in radiology where ED patients must take precedence over scheduled patients. In addition, patients can be critically ill and cannot leave the department for a formal ultrasound.

"Having this technology available here in the ED is better for the patient on so many levels - they are moved around less and we are able to pinpoint their injuries and stabilize them much more quickly," Dr. Fedinec added.