Wireless and Scanning – The Clarius Portable Ultrasound Review
Can you imagine making an ultrasound scan on your kitchen table? No need for a doctor’s appointment, no waiting time, no travel costs. With the appearance of pocket-sized and user-friendly diagnostic devices, such as the Clarius wireless portable ultrasound, it’s already possible. The Medical Futurist had the chance to test the mind-boggling technology able to revolutionize diagnostics. Here’s our great Clarius review.
When everyday heroes meet science fiction turned reality
On a partly cloudy September morning, The Medical Futurist team visited an ambulance crew in the Hungarian capital. We brought the experts two top-notch portable ultrasound devices to test: the Philips Lumify (read our review here) and the Clarius mobile ultrasound devices. We were very curious how they would find the instruments and whether they would believe the innovative solutions could be of any help in their job – on an emergency vehicle.
Tibor Kocsis, department leader at the Hungarian National Ambulance Service, told us that portable ultrasound devices definitely have a place in a hospital’s emergency department. However, it is a difficult question whether emergency vehicles should have them on board. He has been working with the ground and air ambulance services for years. He could recall many cases where the handheld ultrasound device proved to be life-saving. However, we have to recognize that there are cases where they do not have therapeutic consequences for the patient.
Nevertheless, he tried both the Philips Lumify and the Clarius scanners. Let’s see the latter in detail!
Unboxing the Clarius ultrasound device
The Vancouver-based start-up, Clarius, was founded four years ago and focuses on the development of portable ultrasound ecosystems. In its brochure, the company says that their developers were the brains behind the first PC-based platform for ultrasound research. They also introduced the first touch screen ultrasound system with a simplified user interface. By now, they went a giant leap further – and have marketed three various ultrasound scanners.
The difference between C3 Convex, L7 Linear and C7 Microconvex is how deep they scan into tissue. The first one is for abdominal, emergency cardiac, lung, bladder or superficial scans, but it could be utilized in the obstetrics/gynecology department, too. On the other hand, the L7 scanner is able to carry out breast, lung, musculoskeletal, ocular, nerve or vascular exams alongside with the ability to scan small parts such as thyroid. The Medical Futurist received these two for testing. The third, the C7 scanner is for abdominal, emergency cardiac events and also for examining small parts. That’s what makes it a good fit for veterinary practices and small animal exams.
A few weeks ago, Dr. Meskó received the C3 Convex, as well as the L7 Linear in a basic setting – meaning the scanners themselves, the battery charger with 2 rechargeable batteries and access to the web management portal, and as an extra, the entire package came in the cross-body bag. No redundant cords to carry around, no fuss about how to take it from A to B. The instrument itself weighs less than a pound. It is produced with a magnesium shell, the scanner is waterproof and can withstand drops from up to 1 meter. Streamlined, elegant and functional design. However, it must be somewhat tricky to sterilize the scanner due to the uneven surface.
No wires, no cry
When Dr. Meskó put the battery into the instrument for the first time, he said it felt like inserting a game into a console in the good old days of Nintendo. The scanner has to be charged for 90 minutes before use, and it functions for seven days in the standby mode. However, it only allows sixty minutes of scanning with one charge, which might mean charging it every other day for busy emergency service. However, the fact that the Clarius connects wirelessly, through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, to an iOS or Android smartphone app, overrides some of its deficiencies.
Once it’s charged, its start-to-scan time is promised to only take 30 seconds – and you can start the procedure. However, Tibor Kocsis found that the device needed more time, moreover, when he wanted to change the transducers, the tablet did not see the Wi-Fi connection, and he had to reboot the entire system. So it might not be ideal in an emergency situation.
Image resolution and the Clarius Cloud
In case of portable ultrasound devices, the primary challenge is how to maintain high-resolution image quality, but it doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore for the latest generation of scanners – and Clarius is not an exception here either. Moreover, it uses a so-called Point-and-Shoot Ultrasound technology that allows users to scan without making any adjustments. That means specialists do not have to be tech wizards to draw on sharp images, the device will automatically adjust. Although you have the option to do it manually with the distance, velocity or trace tools. However, Tibor Kocsis experienced that the wireless device and the Point-and-Shoot Ultrasound technology leads to the image appearing on the screen with a minor time lag.
Anyhow, after you finished scanning, the still or moving images could be saved locally or sent to the Clarius Cloud for review or into the DICOM review systems, in case you are using the premium version. That option also features a heart rate monitor, as well as color, power, and pulse-wave dopplers. The company promises customers that the Clarius Cloud is secure and HIPAA-compliant, allowing users to save, review, manage and share their images. You only need your password, and the platform allows you access from anywhere with good Internet connection. Also, storage is free up to 2GB.
Benefits reach from midwives through war zones to chimpanzees
With a compact, portable scanner that can bring the same level of quality as a massive machine, the medical field gets a badly needed tool in their hands. For hospitals, it means they don’t have to rely on a single device, they can buy plenty with lower price tags.
But the real advantages show outside of the hospitals and clinics. It’s a perfect tool for doctors at home visits, or for midwives. Immovable patients can receive the same diagnostics as if they were in a hospital. Med students can have instant access to the technology and easily prepare for their exams. But we can go further than that. Doctors without borders at refugee camps or active war zones can deliver ultrasound diagnostics. Among Clarius’ praises, we can even find a veterinarian who uses it in a chimpanzee sanctuary, where the patients don’t necessarily understand the need for a thorough check-up.
The downsides of the Clarius
Tibor Kocsis told us that he was surprised at how big the devices are – they did not seem to be so in the pictures. He found it difficult to find the best position to hold the gadget in his hand, and it was uncomfortable for him to do the examinations on the patient, although he mentioned he would get adjusted to it after a while. Not only the size but also the weight was problematic for him, and although the device was wireless, it was still not as pleasant to carry out an abdominal scan as he had imagined.
Moreover, as mentioned above, he had issues with the image resolution, with the connection when changing the transducers as well as the overall user experience of the app. For example, he suggested an improvement for Clarius: in the case of each scanner, the app might suggest what would be the most appropriate to scan with that particular transducer.
Far the biggest advantages of Clarius over other portable ultrasound devices are the wireless feature and the really long battery time. However, making a wireless ultrasound comes with disadvantages too such as the minor time lag, the size of transducers or the difficulty of sterilizing it.
Simply put, with all its deficiencies, Clarius is a first step towards turning the patient the point of care and bringing the hospital wherever it’s needed. And hopefully, it’s a step, to be followed by many.
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