The Race Across America is billed as the world’s toughest bicycle race; a non-stop, coast-to-coast, transcontinental trek from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland. Racers cycle for over 3,000 miles across 12 states of frequently arid terrain, and climb 170,000 feet through three mountain ranges, with the fastest teams finishing in just over five days, and solo racers in under eight.
Dr. Rüdiger Eichholz, a consultant anesthetist at the private practice Medizi in Stuttgart (and keen amateur cyclist), joined the support crew of the winning eight-man team for 2017, armed with a Sonosite iViz point-of-care ultrasound system to help with any medical emergencies he might encounter. Dr. Eichholz was approached by a friend to be part of the volunteer support crew for an eight-man cycling team entering the race.
The team members were amateurs, and were all employees of ViaSat, a communications company based close to the race starting point in Carlsbad.
With significant expertise in emergency medicine, Dr. Eichholz was an ideal support crew member. There are no breaks in the team events, which makes it incredibly exhausting but, while there is real potential for serious accidents, there is very little in the way of formal medical cover for the event.
Teams generally do not have their own medics and there are no following ambulances; the race starts are staggered, with the whole field potentially stretched over more than 1,500 miles, so it would be impractical to cover this vast area.
The race tactics and planning were of course crucial for such a high-endurance pursuit, and the team adopted a leapfrog system across four two-man teams, organized so that only a single member of the team was racing at any one time. Each team took five to six hour shifts, with one rider racing while his partner rested in the support car that drove miles ahead to a predesignated point, ready for a rolling changeover.
As well as the leapfrog car, a solo vehicle served as a back-up, following the cyclists at all times to protect them from other vehicles on the roads, to navigate the well-defined route so that racers didn’t veer off track and lose precious time, and to provide the high beam lighting to allow the racing to continue through the night.
Although there were thankfully no accidents during the race, Dr. Eichholz was pleased to have the iViz system to hand, to monitor cyclists and any niggling injuries they had during their respective rest periods, and to be prepared for anything more serious.
“The Sonosite iViz is a very small point-of-care system using high end technology and is ideal for emergency ultrasound,” says Eichholz.”I use a different Sonosite device in my everyday role performing anesthesia procedures, cycling between surgical centers in Stuttgart with the ultrasound system in my bike paniers – I take it with me wherever I go. The principle is the same with the iViz; during the race I was jumping in and out of different cars and I took the device with me, just in case I needed it. It is small, lightweight and can be used in unusual conditions like the desert, and it was great.
“For me, it is all about being prepared, in this case most likely to treat a person seriously injured in an accident. There is no immediate access to imaging techniques like X-ray or CT but, with a small device that you can use at the scene, you can examine the patient and diagnose a critical medical condition that needs immediate lifesaving action.
“You can also look for cardiac tamponade, pneumothorax and free fluid in the abdomen or chest, following the Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) that is now the standard stepwise approach to dealing with a critical condition.
“Thankfully, there were no serious incidents and our team members were well prepared for the rigors of the race. Even in an informal capacity, I was glad to have a point-of-care ultrasound system to hand to reassure and support our team members just when they needed it.”
Learn More About Ultra-Mobile Ultrasound
A powerful diagnostic tool all within the palm of your hand, the Sonosite iViz was designed to go with you, where you need it. Learn about how the iViz workflow is streamlined and easy to use for one handed operation.