AN IPSWICH doctor is the driving force behind a revolutionary trial using ultrasound to diagnose heart and lung failure.
When patients present to an Emergency Department with shortness of breath, doctors can often face challenges determining whether the medical issue relates to the heart or lungs.
Now, using the technology and skills developed by Ipswich Hospital's Dr Kylie Baker, diagnosing the specific cause of the symptoms will be faster, cheaper and more accurate.
The trial, using ultrasound instead of X-rays, is the only one of its kind in Queensland and also means patients will be exposed to less radiation.
The four-year $200,000 trial is this year in its final stages, with the results being analysed ahead of publications, and comes off the back of a pilot study also funded by Queensland Health.
Dr Baker said the ultrasound can diagnose heart failure within minutes of the patient arriving at hospital, which is particularly important for elderly patients who often suffer a range of health issues.
The procedure is flexible and can be used anywhere a portable, battery operated ultrasound machine can be carried.
A modest Dr Baker said her research was motivated by interaction with patients and frustration at not always being able to quickly diagnose a problem.
"It was always really distressing - in the middle of the night - to have a patient that you didn't know what was wrong and you couldn't help them but you could see them getting sicker," Dr Baker said.
"That where it really started.
"I thought how on earth can I do this better? It is ridiculous that in the 20th century we're still flipping a coin to decide what to do with this patient... and that's where it all started."
The introduction of the technology in emergency departments will also translate as a cost reduction, eliminating the need for expensive X-rays worth between $30 and $60 each.
As the research progresses, the technology can be used in other parts of the body and there are plans to eventually roll the machines out to GPs.
For now, the biggest challenge is teaching others how to interpret the ultrasound images.
Doctors have been travelling from Brisbane hospitals to learn from Dr Baker, considered the expert in the area who has also been school junior doctors at Ipswich Hospital.
"I think everyone is suddenly realising we have to catch up with this technology (which has already been implemented overseas)," Dr Baker said.
Health Minister Cameron Dick, who visited Ipswich Hospital to formally announce the trial yesterday, said his government was proud to fund this research.
"Based on the outcomes of the pilot project, Australian emergency departments are rapidly adopting lung ultrasound to initially diagnose elderly patients with shortness of breath," Mr Dick said.
"The results are proving that this research is as much a benefit for rural, remote and pre-hospital services as it is metro, regional and tertiary hospitals."
The clinical trial involving 400 patients ran at Ipswich Hospital, The Prince Charles Hospital and the Princess Alexandra Hospital.
Improving Recognition of Heart Failure using Lung Ultrasound was funded by Queensland Health through the Emergency Medicine Foundation.
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