Image of Health

Point-of-care ultrasound proves invaluable.

Photo by Fred Bellet.

Dr. Profet performs a point-of-care ultrasound exam.

Already weary from a long day of work, the last thing Mario Profet, MD, wanted to do on the night in 2006 that he traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico was stop and visit friends on his way to Guayama, where he was scheduled to take a licensing exam the next day.

“I was very tired, and it’s a two-hour drive from San Juan to Guayama, but because my plane arrived a half-hour earlier than planned, the friend who picked me up at the airport insisted on stopping and visiting these friends,” Dr. Profet remembers.

“During our visit, the wife of one of them suddenly asks me, Do you have your little portable ultrasound machine with you? I told her I did, and she asked me, Would you scan my gallbladder for me. I think I might have a problem there.

“I scanned her, and she was fine. But then everyone else started asking me to check this and that for them. One of my friends eventually asked me to check his abdomen, and when I passed over his left kidney, I thought I saw something.

“I asked him, Are you having any problems with your kidneys or experiencing any symptoms of any kind? He said no, so I scanned him again, and the second scan confirmed there was in fact something there.

“A few days later, he had some other tests – an MRI, a CT scan and a bone scan – and it turned out that he had a cancerous tumor on his kidney. Two weeks after that, he had the tumor removed, and he’s been cancer free ever since.

“I tell that story because I’ve always found it fascinating how that decision to stop and visit those friends, and the fact that I had that portable ultrasound machine with me, actually saved a friend’s life.”

The chain of events that led to that lifesaving moment actually began just over a decade earlier when Dr. Profet, a primary care physician and the proprietor of Dr. Profet Health & Wellness Center in Tampa, first decided to learn ultrasound scanning techniques.

“That was in 1995. After taking several courses and becoming skilled in ultrasound technology, I went to a conference in Spain, where I learned that most of the general practitioners there use ultrasound on a routine basis in their practices,” Dr. Profet explains.

“They were treating it like a stethoscope, as just another tool in their practice, and I’ve been performing what we call point-of-care ultrasound in my practice ever since. If someone is having a problem or a complaint, we scan them right there in our office.”

Extensive Experience

As Dr. Profet’s story shows, point-of-care ultrasound is a medical specialty where medical professionals trained in that specific technological field can use portable ultrasound devices to diagnose problems in patients anytime, anywhere.

Among the benefits for patients is the ability to be treated faster, more accurately and in a noninvasive manner by a highly trained medical professional without having to make visits to a radiology center.

“The fact that I had that portable ultrasound machine with me actually saved a friend’s life.” – Dr. Profet

At Dr. Profet Health & Wellness Center, Dr. Profet and his staff have extensive experience in the field of internal medicine and are certified in several areas of point-of-care ultrasound, including vascular, cardiac and obstetricgynecological ultrasound imaging.

Also referred to as sonography, an ultrasound scan is a medical test in which high-frequency waves capture live images from inside the body. Those images allow physicians to see problems with organs, vessels and tissues without making an incision.

Unlike many other imaging procedures, ultrasound does not use radiation. Because of that, it is the preferred method for viewing a developing fetus during pregnancy. Dr. Profet performs obstetric ultrasound exams during the first trimester.

“We also do echocardiogram and musculoskeletal exams as well as guided ultrasound intervention. Instead of placing a needle without knowing where it should go, we use ultrasound to help us guide the needle to the right place,” Dr. Profet says.

Abdominal ultrasounds that allow physicians to look at organs such as the liver, gallbladder, spleen and kidneys are among the most common ultrasound exams performed, says Dr. Profet, who recently performed a rather critical abdominal ultrasound.

“This much older gentleman came into our office one day complaining of heartburn and abdominal pain in the epigastric region,” Dr. Profet remembers. “While examining him, I said, Let’s do a scan of your abdomen.

“That scan revealed a gallbladder full of stones as well as signs of inflammation. Now, if you have gallstones with no inflammation, you can have the stones removed later. But if you have gallstones with inflammation, as this man did, that’s an emergency situation.

“I immediately sent this gentleman to the emergency room, and he had surgery that night. That’s just another example of us helping someone with a serious complaint. Were it not for the ultrasound, who knows what would have happened to this man.”

A Deeper Dive

A similar situation developed with another older gentleman who came to Dr. Profet complaining of knee pain. During a musculoskeletal ultrasound of the man’s knee, Dr. Profet found the cause of his pain to be a Baker’s cyst, a common swelling behind the knee joint.

But his ultrasound exam also found that the man had a blood clot in one of his leg veins. Fearful that the clot might break free and move to the lungs, which could have been fatal, Dr. Profet immediately began treating the clot with anticoagulants to dissolve it.

“With a patient like that, a lot of doctors would have simply ordered an x-ray to see what the cause of his knee pain was,” Dr. Profet remarks. “By doing an ultrasound exam, we were able to find not only the cause of his knee pain, but another, more serious situation.

“That clot could have embolized to the lungs at any time, but because we were able to start dissolving the clot right away, he was able to recover perfectly. And not only is that man still walking today, but he’s still my patient.”

With early detection being such a critical factor in the successful treatment of so many medical issues, point-of-care ultrasound is fast becoming one of the most valuable tools primary care physicians can have in their tool belt, Dr. Profet says.

“This is something that can help us detect serious issues in patients long before they’re experiencing symptoms,” Dr. Profet says. “For that reason alone, this is an invaluable medical tool that patients can greatly benefit from. That’s why it’s such a big part of my practice.”

 

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