Cardiac ultrasound comes to Argentinian jungle population via ASEF, FAC and Philips

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | August 31, 2015
Cardiology Medical Devices Population Health Ultrasound X-Ray
Courtesy of the ASEF
Over 30 volunteer sonographers and physicians from the U.S., Argentina and Brazil ventured into the Argentinian jungle with Philips Healthcare ultrasounds earlier this month to provide cardiac screening to 653 indigenous patients.

The mission was organized by the American Society of Echocardiography Foundation (ASEF) and the Argentina Federation of Cardiology (FAC).

The clinicians were surprised by how many people showed up to be screened. “We brought the crew, the machines and the space for 300 people and then all of a sudden we had to take of all these people coming down from buses and trucks. We just did it and it was fantastic team work,” Dr. Federico M. Asch of the Medstar Washington Hospital Center and Medstar Health Research Institute, told HCB News.
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It’s rare that this population receives services like this because of its remote location and hesitance to participate in mainstream activities. But the ASEF and FAC started outreach last September and held a preliminary meeting with 27 leaders of the region’s ethnic groups to gauge their acceptance of a mission like this.

The radio station, which is the region's cultural hub, is where they wanted the screenings to be performed. “They were happy to be examined, but they wanted it in their place,” said Asch. “They didn’t want to go to another hospital — that is what they are reluctant to do.”

The clinicians performed an exam, EKG and echo on almost every patient and evaluated their medical history. Out of the 653 cases, nine showed signs of significant cardiac disease and were referred to high-complexity institutions within the province for treatment.

At the end of the first day, the clinicians performed an ultrasound on a 9-month-old girl and found that there was fluid around the heart that was compressing it, which is a life-threatening condition. She was immediately transported to a hospital 400 kilometers away and successfully responded to treatment.

“This kid could have died in a day or two if we didn’t identify this,” said Asch. “It’s not what we were looking for when we planned the mission — we were looking for significant chronic disease — but we happened to find something very acute.”

Philips provided five ultrasounds for the mission, including the EpiQ, Affiniti, HE3 and Sparq systems, and offsite staffing in order to keep the equipment in premium condition. The company already has a strong presence in Argentina through their distributor, Agimed.

“They offered to fully cover our medical and technical needs by providing top of the line equipment, transportation to this remote area, and most importantly technical support on site through the entire week of work,” said Asch.

Asch believes that this mission will have a lasting impact on the region, but that more work needs to be done. “We hope this mission triggers new initiatives to address other medical needs of these and other communities that are in many ways left aside of the medical system, whether it is for political reasons or for their own fears and reluctance to accept care from traditional medicine,” he said.

The ASEF will continue to do work in other parts of the country. They have already carried out three missions in India and plan on doing more, and they are also looking to go into Brazil and Nigeria.

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