Original Research

Role of portable ultrasound during a short-term medical service trip to rural Guatemala: a collaborative mission of trainees and physicians


Ahmed K Elsayes1 BS, Biology Student

Scott A Rohren2 BS, Medical Student *

Nadim B Islam3 MD, Emergency Medicine Physician

Katherine J Blair4 MD, Radiologist

Alicia V Silvestre5 MD, Radiologist

Daniela C Segura6 MD, Radiologist

Theodore J Dubinsky7 MD, Radiologist


1 Department of Biology, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA

2 School of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA

3 Department of Emergency Medicine, Houston Methodist, Houston, TX 77030, USA

4 Department of Radiology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA

5 Department of Radiology, TecniScan De Guatemala, Guatemala City, Guatemala

6 Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Clínica Universitaria, Bogotá, Columbia

7 Department of Radiology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA

ACCEPTED: 18 March 2021

Scott Rohren: Role of portable ultrasound during a short-term medical service trip to rural Guatemala

early abstract:

Background and Objectives: Access to healthcare in developing countries is scarce. One solution to this problem has been for doctors from the United States to provide single-visit care through short-term medical service trips. There is interest in using ultrasound imaging as a portable diagnostic tool; however, data describing its usefulness are scarce. Therefore, the goal of this study was to determine the usefulness of portable ultrasound imaging during a medical service trip to rural Guatemala.  
Methods: A multidisciplinary team of physicians examined patients at a mobile clinic in Antigua, Guatemala. Patients with clinical indications for ultrasound had their suspected diagnoses recorded before ultrasound testing. After imaging, updated diagnoses were recorded and compared with the pre-test suspected diagnoses to determine how often ultrasound results changed the medical management of the patients and to assess the most common indications for ultrasound imaging.
Results: During the trip, 205 patients were seen. Of these, 24 (12%) were given ultrasound exams. The results of 13 (54%) exams altered their medical management, and the remaining 11 (46%) exams confirmed the pre-test suspected diagnoses. The most common indications for ultrasound testing were suspected cardiac (11 patients [46%]) and gastrointestinal (8 patients [33%]) diseases. 
Conclusions: Portable ultrasound imaging improved the medical team’s ability to diagnose disease and clinically manage patients in a rural medical service trip. Ultrasound imaging may provide a low-cost solution to the growing demand for care in developing countries.