GE shows off handheld ultrasound device

CEO Jeff Immelt gives Web 2.0 Summit first public view of BlackBerry-size scanner

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Someday in the not-so-distant future, doctors might be able to take ultrasounds of their patients using a handheld device that's just a bit bigger than a BlackBerry.

General Electric Co. CEO Jeff Immelt on Tuesday gave an audience at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco the first public viewing of the company's new pocket-size device, dubbed Vscan, that's designed for point-of-care imaging.

Though Immelt couldn't say how much the Vscan will cost, he said he's hoping that a much lower price tag than traditional medical imaging machines' could help get the technology into the hands of doctors around the world.

"It's the stethoscope of the 21st century," said Immelt. "It's an ultrasound the same size as a BlackBerry, with the same power that an ultrasound [device] would have had two to three years ago for $250,000. This is Moore's Law in action."

Immelt said he's hoping the pocket-size device can help redefine the physical exam. Because it's expected to be much less expensive and easier to handle than a traditional ultrasound machine, he's hoping doctors will be able to directly get more information about what's happening inside a patient.

"We can monitor the heart and see what else is going on inside the body, [or] see if a baby is breach," he added. "Putting ultrasound tools in doctors' hands is very important for GE. It's about miniaturization and power."

The Vscan, which was developed across 10 or 12 GE global design centers, has been granted 510K clearance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which means GE has successfully notified the government of its intent to market the device. The company has not said when the Vscan might be available for clinical use.

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