Butterfly iQ Handheld Ultrasound

1.What is it?

  • The butterfly iQ is an FDA approved handheld ultrasound device designed by Butterfly Network Inc. to revolutionise the ultrasound market with its extremely competitive price point and handheld functionality
  • Allowing for multipurpose scanning using just the help of the paired app installed on a phone or tablet linked via a cable to the device

2.Why is it important?

  • Ultrasound scanners can cost from around £5,000 for the low tier devices to upwards of £100,00 for the most detailed and specialised ultrasound devices (2)
  • The butterfly iQ is currently priced at £2,000, due to its reduced size and production cost, this is much more cost-effective for all medical institutes (1)
  • However, the device is still unable to offer the same quality imaging as high-end scanners but is supposedly able to deliver detailed images for its respective price bracket (1)
  • This has come under some scrutiny with reviews showing that the image quality is not as high as expected, but still significant for its price point and function (3)
  • One major feature of the device is that it can emulate the function of any ultrasound transducer without having to change the device or add on a scanner, whilst being able to fit into your pocket, so can be used on the first point of call in medical examination
  • This allows for more frequent ultrasounds with more ease just as the stethoscope around your neck in primary examinations
  • Furthermore, the price and detailed functionality allows the ultrasound to be used more flexibly within the primary care setting and within smaller practices
  • This could potentially enable GP’s to diagnose more accurately, saving time for the secondary care team by sending the patient to the right department with more adequate referrals

3.How does it work?

  • The butterfly iQ uses an ultrasound-on-chip technology, a single silicon chip decreasing size and increasing functionality and reducing the manufacturing costs
  • No need to switch heads, the head of the device is made up of 9000 programmable machined sensors which can emulate any type of ultrasound transducer- linear, curved or phased allowing for maximised functionality
  • The device uploads the image to an HTTPS TLS 1.2 encrypted cloud network – access can be given to the patient or another qualified member of the team from virtually any device
  • However, this functionality requires a monthly paid membership which varies depending on the number of people involved in the team which may affect practicality in the clinical setting, especially with regards to the NHS
  • The app itself in conjunction with the device does have some other useful features such as specific tuning modes for various body parts and training tools to help the user carry out better and more accurate pictures
  • Overall this is an exciting product with huge potential that may come to reality with some more work on the image quality, image sharing security and the membership system currently in place

References

  1. https://www.butterflynetwork.com/
  2. https://lbnmedical.com/ultrasound-price-guide/
  3. https://criticalcarenorthampton.com/2018/12/03/ultrasound-device-no-5-the-butterfly-iq/

All images are the property of Butterfly Network Inc

Author:

Shahmeer Noori – Medical Student

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