How an iPhone Ultrasound Saved This Doctor’s Life

Written by Healthline Wellness Team on November 3, 2017

The future of ultrasounds may not cost much more than your iPhone.

iphone ultrasound

The future of cancer screenings and ultrasounds is changing — fast — and it doesn’t cost that much more than an iPhone. Shaped and sized like your average electric razor, Butterfly IQ is a brand new pocket-sized ultrasound device from the Guilford, Connecticut startup, Butterfly Network. It’s also been instrumental in diagnosing a cancerous tumor in their chief medical officer.

In a story first reported by MIT Technology Review, vascular surgeon John Martin decided to test the device on himself after feeling discomfort around his throat. He ran Butterfly IQ over his neck, watching for the black and grey ultrasound images to appear on his iPhone. The result — a 3-centimeter mass — was certainly not run of the mill. “I was enough of a doctor to know I was in trouble,” he tells MIT Technology Review. The mass turned out to be squamous cell cancer.

The future of affordable, portable ultrasounds

As MIT Technology Review reports, Butterfly IQ is the first solid-state ultrasound machine to reach U.S. markets, meaning the electronic signals (like in your remote control or computer monitor) are contained within the device itself. So instead of getting sound waves through a vibrating crystal, like a traditional ultrasound, the Butterfly IQ, according to MIT Technology Review, sends sound waves into the body using “9,000 tiny drums etched onto a semiconductor chip.”

This year, it goes on sale for $1,999, which is a huge difference from the traditional ultrasound. A quick Google search turns up prices ranging from $15,000 to 50,000.

But with Butterfly IQ, all that could change.

While it’s not available for home use, the portable ultrasound machine is FDA-approved for 13 different conditions, including fetal/obstetric, musculo-skeletal, and peripheral blood vessels. While Butterfly IQ doesn’t produce the same detailed images as the high-end ultrasound machines, it can signal to a doctor if you need a closer look. And coming in at a lower cost for hospitals, the Butterfly IQ may motivate people to come in for advanced screenings and get themselves on the path to care, if needed.

Martin, who’s since undergone a 5 1/2 hour surgery and radiation treatment, believes that this technology could be taken even further, to at-home care. Imagine being able to look at a bone fracture at home or an unborn child as they develop.

Don’t forget to screen early

The device will be available for doctors to purchase in 2018, but until hospitals get the Butterfly IQ, or when the technology has advanced enough for people to have it on their bedside tables, it’s essential that you get into your doctor’s office for routine screenings.

Here are some guidelines for when to get screened, and what to screen for:

Watch the video below to learn more about Butterfly IQ and how it works.


Allison Krupp is an American writer, editor, and ghostwriting novelist. Between wild, multi-continental adventures, she resides in Berlin, Germany. Check out her website here.

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