Ultrasound Vital for Women’s Healthcare in Rural Ghana

May 11, 2020

Dr. Carlye Jensen practices emergency and family medicine in Canada. She recently went on a mission for Ghana Rural Integrated Development (GRID), whose purpose is to provide basic medical care to the rural areas of northern Ghana, where many patients have no access to healthcare at all. Dr. Jensen’s team borrowed two Sonosite M-Turbos for the November 2019 mission, and provided us with a report on how she put the portable ultrasound machines to good use.

After landing in Ghana's capital Accra, we took a 12-hour bus ride to the village of Carpenter, where we are housed for our two-week mission. In addition to running clinics out of Carpenter, we traveled to local villages on roads that would be deemed impassable in Canada. In these villages, we set up in the local school rooms and see as many people as we can. We work by the light of day as there is no electricity. The challenges are highly variable, from translation issues (there are so many dialects that we sometimes have a two or three-way translation going on) to diagnostic uncertainty or diagnoses that exceed our capabilities. Not to mention the latrines with various insects and snakes, and of course, the never ending sweltering heat!

Sonosite M-Turbo Ultrasound Proves To Be Invaluable

The M-Turbo ultrasound machines were an incredible tool for providing care. Not a day went by where we didn't marvel at how beneficial it was to have this diagnostic tool. The M-Turbos were used extensively for assistance with diagnosis, including breast abscess, hydatid cysts, retained POC, congestive heart failure, urinary retention, ovarian cysts, and much more. It was also an absolute delight to both the patient and provider to be able to show some women their viable pregnancy on a screen, and we even diagnosed a twin pregnancy!

We also travel with a hernia team who provide a much needed surgical intervention for extremely large hernias. The anesthetists on our team used the ultrasound machines to provide blocks for some procedures and also were able to train a local anesthetist on the use of ultrasound guidance for nerve blocks.  

Abdominal Mass Diagnosed with Ultrasound

One of my most memorable cases was a woman with a very large mass in her abdomen. I was extremely worried it was a malignancy of some sort. Without bedside ultrasound, I would have had to explain this finding to her, and she would have had to somehow make her way to a local hospital, find the funds to get an ultrasound, and then find a physician to interpret the results. All this would have occurred long after I left, and I would never know what happened with the patient. But with bedside ultrasound, I was able to quickly ascertain that this was actually a very large hydatid cyst, so treatment is available and recovery expected. This was so much more rewarding as a practitioner, and I'm sure much appreciated by the patient. 

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