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Ultrasound Could Find Heart Problems Earlier

Ultrasound Could Find Heart Problems Earlier

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Ed Yeates ReportingCould ultrasound have identified athlete Thomas Herrion's heart problem before it took his life? How about patients undergoing routine surgery? A Utah research group is campaigning for wider use of ultrasound inside and outside hospital walls.

Dr. Daniel Vezina demonstrates the traditional use of ultrasound for us. Within a few seconds, the sensor on the patient's chest paints a detailed image of the heart and how well it's doing.

Daniel Vezina, M.D., Cardiologist-Anesthesiologist, U of U Medical Center: "We have got to see this new technology as the stethoscope of the 21st century."

But in operating rooms, it's never used. Instead, physicians watch blood pressure and electrical signals from the heart, involving technology Vezina says is 50-years old. So a big change is in the wind.

A newly formed group called the National Academy of Perioperative Echocardiography has started a training program, conceivably that could teach 30-thousand anesthesiologists across the country how to use ultrasound routinely as a monitoring tool in OR's.

Dr. Vezina: "What they do with their ultrasound is being analyzed on a daily basis, immediate feedback is being done, and these guys fell like this is the next best thing to sliced bread. It's wonderful."

Wonderful because this more detailed monitoring of the heart will save lives. And it's portable too, which means ultrasound now less than the size of a briefcase can travel.

Dr. Vezina: "It's eight pounds, ten pounds, wireless. We've got the technology. We just have to use it."

That kind of portability is going to bring the ultrasound out here to the playing fields, routinely testing athletes for hidden heart problems. San Francisco Forty Niners and former Utah football co-captain Thomas Herrion died suddenly because a clogged coronary artery was never identified.

Theodore Stanley, M.D., CEO, National Academy of Perioperative Echocardiography: "Didn't pick this up in a routine physical examination, but the ultrasound passed on his chest non invasively in a few minutes would have picked this up."

On ultrasound, instead of the muscle moving normally it would be still, most likely indicating the right coronary artery was diseased.

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