MANSFIELD — The fire department’s ambulances will soon be bringing more emergency room tools to the scene of serious injuries.
Paramedics are training on how to use ultrasound devices on patients for certain internal medical problems, Fire Chief Justin Desrosiers said Thursday.
“It’s bringing the tools at the hospital to the patients at the scene,” Desrosiers said.
The town’s two front-line ambulances will be equipped with the palm-sized ultra-sound device and an iPad possibly in November after paramedics are fully trained, the chief said.
The two life-saving devices and iPads, which cost a total of $6,000, will be able to detect internal bleeding, fluid around the heart and lung, and cardiac activity, Desrosiers said.
Previously, paramedics would not be able to know for sure whether a person was bleeding internally without the ultrasounds, he said.
Now paramedics will be able to communicate the medical information to doctors at trauma centers such as Rhode Island Hospital in Providence before the ambulance arrives.
“They will be able to get their surgical team together before we get there,” Desrosiers said.
About three years ago, paramedics in Foxboro were chosen for a pilot program to use the devices, Desrosiers and Foxboro Fire Chief Mike Kelleher said.
The study by the Foxboro department allowed the state Office of Emergency Medical Services to create statewide protocols on their use by paramedics in certain instances, Kelleher said.
Using an ultrasound device “is equivalent to using a flashlight to look inside the human body,” Kelleher said.
The chiefs said the devices can only be used now in ambulances because of the advances in technology and drastic reduction in price.
Ultrasound machines, which can now fit in the palm of a hand, used to cost over $50,000 and were so large they required a cart to move them around hospitals.
Keller said the ultrasounds are needed in the area because of the number of injuries resulting from high-speed highway crashes.
“We’re on the highways all the time,” Kelleher said, adding that paramedics use the ultrasounds on patients at least two or three times a week.
People can suffer internal injuries from falls, another common medical emergency paramedics respond to, Desrosiers said.
Internal injuries can turn fatal if undetected, Kelleher said, and the ultrasound devices have already been used by Foxboro paramedics to save lives.
Currently, the devices cannot be used on pregnant women but that is something that will change in the future, the fire chiefs said.