KIGALI, Rwanda — As the ventilators whirr in the resuscitation ward, located in the emergency department in the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali, Dr. Gabin Mbanjumucyo gets to work diagnosing and treating his patient, a middle-aged woman who lies unconscious. Mbanjumucyo, lead of the emergency medicine faculty, conducts an ultrasound of the vessels around the clavicle. Rubbing the gel on her neck, he glides the small ultrasound device across her skin, intermittently checking the tablet it’s connected to. He explains to his resident doctors how to use the machine and what they should be looking for on the ultrasound image that appears.
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This whole process takes less than 10 minutes before Mbanjumucyo is onto administering treatment, calling for drugs, scalpels, and assistance.
Ultrasounds use high-frequency sound waves to provide cross-sectional images of different organs in the body. A diagnostic tool, it can determine if there is fluid in the lungs, internal bleeding, organ failure — something critically important in resuscitation of Ebola patients as the virus spreads and damages organs — and monitor pregnancy.
Mbanjumucyo explained that he performs an ultrasound on almost every patient he sees.
However, until recently, ultrasound wasn’t always available. The hospital, otherwise known as CHUK, has five traditional ultrasound machines meaning there’s often a wait. Additionally, the emergency ward does not have a functioning X-ray machine, making the availability of ultrasound scans even more vital in determining the correct treatment.
This patient could have been waiting hours before an ultrasound could be performed — that’s if she was stable enough to be moved 10 minutes outside of the ward to reach one, and if the fixed-place machines were working, which is often not the case, according to Mbanjumucyo — this could have jeopardized her care.
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