Dr. John Martin, founder of Dare to C.A.R.E., discusses the Butterfly iQ, a small imaging machine for ultrasounds compatible with the iPhone. The Annapolis Dare to C.A.R.E. site is the first in the world to test the device in aneurism studies.
An Annapolis nonprofit will be the first site in the world to use a handheld device for early detection of heart disease.
The local screening program Dare to C.A.R.E. will test a newly developed device that will transform ultrasound imaging from being an array of large, expensive equipment only highly trained experts can use and understand, to a radically less expensive, palm-sized scanner.
Called the Butterfly iQ, this device can be used by every health care provider in an examining room, at a patient’s bedside or even by the patients themselves in the privacy of their homes.
Dare to C.A.R.E., a free vascular screening program that began in 1999 in Annapolis, now has screening sites in 10 states. Cardiologist Dr. John D. Martin founded the nonprofit with Louise O. Hanson, of Cardiology Associates PC. Martin serves as the organization’s chairman and lead organizer, establishing new sites and is usually the first to try new applicable technologies.
Dare to C.A.R.E. is privately funded with donations and grants.
Carotid artery disease: A primary cause of preventable strokes
Abdominal aortic aneurysms: Ruptured aneurysms cause death in up to 90 percent of cases
Renal artery stenosis: When untreated, frequently leads to the need for hemodialysis
Extremity artery disease: Affecting up to 12 million Americans, especially those older than age 50
Martin, in his efforts to promote the free vascular screening service for individuals at least 60 years old or at least 50 years old with certain risk factors for vascular disease (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking or family history of vascular disease), is eager to find new techniques and technologies to advance the service.
The standard cost of the medical ultrasound imaging equipment, he said, ranges from $25,000 or $40,000, up to $200,000.
The cost to train a technician to handle the equipment and analyze the images is also expensive.
A year ago, while examining the new, experimental, palm-sized device in Denver, he ran the instrument over his throat like an electric razor — and discovered a cancerous mass, a squamous cell cancer, in his neck. He has since undergone surgery and radiation.
This is not the first time the doctor has made unexpected discoveries about his own health. Two years ago, “playing the patient” while a technician did a vascular scan, he and the technician realized at the same moment that an artery in his neck had narrowed.
“I thought I was perfect,” he complained, but began taking aspirin, modified his diet and ramped up his exercise routine.
Dare to C.A.R.E. is testing a device created by the Butterfly Network, a startup company in Connecticut, which, it is hoped, will greatly reduce the cost and increase the availability of ultrasound imaging. It is the first ultrasound on a chip device a person can hold in one hand
“It really is fascinating and drew me to its potential,” Martin said of the Butterfly iQ. “As our mission is spreading around the world, there are two barriers to a broader adoption: the cost of equipment and the cost of skilled technicians. Right now, two-thirds of the world have no access to medical imaging.”
The device, he said, moves ultrasound from piezoelectric crystals to computer chips.
He’s excited the Annapolis site will be using the device in a three-phase study, starting with aneurysm screening studies. Patients who agree to participate in the study will sign a consent form. Soon, Martin assumes patients will be able to scan themselves and, eventually, scan themselves at home.
When the instrument reaches the broader medical market, he estimates it will sell for under $2,000.
Currently, three different probes are used during a vascular scanning — each for a different area of the body. The new device, which has 9,000 image elements, does the work of all three — and doesn’t need a big screen. It can also provide 3-D imaging.
He feels, using the new device, he can quickly teach a novice technician to obtain an image and interpret it accurately.
“Finding an issue or problem with your heart — or other parts of your body — is better,” Martin said. “Knowing what you have early is better. The potential of this device is so incredible. Think of the time you’ll save. Think of the lives that will be saved.”