This doctor diagnosed his own cancer with an iPhone ultrasound

“Earlier this year, vascular surgeon John Martin was testing a pocket-sized ultrasound device developed by Butterfly Network, a startup based in Guilford, Connecticut, that he’d just joined as chief medical officer,” Antonio Regalado reports for MIT Technology Review. “He’d been having an uncomfortable feeling of thickness on his throat. So he oozed out some gel and ran the probe, which is the size and shape of an electric razor, along his neck.”

“On his smartphone, to which the device is connected, black-and gray images quickly appeared. Martin is not a cancer specialist. But he knew that the dark, three-centimeter mass he saw did not belong there,” Regalado reports. “‘I was enough of a doctor to know I was in trouble,’ he says. It was squamous-cell cancer.”

“The device he used, called the Butterfly IQ, is the first solid-state ultrasound machine to reach the market in the U.S.,” Regalado reports. “Martin, who since diagnosing his cancer has undergone a five-and-a-half-hour surgery and radiation treatment, believes the devices can take on new shapes, like a patch that could be sent home with patients. Perhaps before too long a parent might diagnose a kid’s fracture at home. ‘To look at this as just an ultrasound device is like looking at an iPhone and saying it’s just a phone,’ he says. ‘If you have a window into the body where anyone can afford it, everyone can use it, and everyone can interpret it, it becomes a heck of a lot more than an ultrasound device.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We’re on the launch pad of big health care revolutions facilitated by devices like Apple’s iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch and Apple SDKs like ResearchKit, CareKit, and HealthKit.

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15 Comments

  1. Waiting for an easy to use look (a simple glance at the Apple Watch) of my blood sugar status anytime I want. Sales of Apple Watches would skyrocket on that alone.

  2. I vaguely recall Apple showing an ultrasound device when they first intro’d HealthKit a couple/few years ago.

    My mom takes her EKG every morning with her AliveCor attached to the back of her iPhone 7+.

  3. Sonograms cannot be used to diagnose fractures of solid bone.

    They see soft tissues very well. I have worked in Radiology for over 30 years and am Licensed in the Field.

    They are best seen on Radiographs and CT Scans using X-Rays. Stress Fractures can be detected early on Nuclear Medicine Bone Scans- before they show on Planar X-Rays. MRI can also see fractures, but are expensive and many patients cannot tolerate the exams for various reasons.

    Finally, the images were only displayed on the phone. A DICOM image is not a BFD. For example, here is one:

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/medfilm/id905871507?mt=8

    1. Actually, they are. Google US and fractures. They won’t be used as much in US, but that may be because of medicolegal issues. They will be probably useful less advanced countries that can’t afford radiology machines and CT scanners outside of major hospitals. For example:

      “Accuracy of Ultrasound for Diagnosis of Femur Bone Fractures in Traumatic Patients. of Ultrasound for Diagnosis of Femur Bone Fractures in Traumatic Patients. Bozorgia F, Azarb MS, Montazera SH, Heidaria SF, Khalilianc A. J Clin Exp Orthop 3:27. Jan 12, 2017.

      Conclusion: In our study, evidences showed ultrasound is accurate equally to radiography for fractures diagnosis of shaft of femur in lower limb with deep array transducer of ultrasound in adults”

      1. What you quote is a study done in Iran and was reported in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Orthopaedics. It is an interesting and welcome finding that will take time to develop as Sonograms are significantly safer for women of child bearing age and Children.

        That said, if you go to almost any Hospital, Clinic, Imaging Center or Physician Office for the evaluation of bone, the odds are it will be almost any other modality before a Sonogram. Our field has changed drastically the last 3 decades and continues to evolve rapidly because of the power of computers.

        In the Steve Jobs bio, there was a mention that Steve sketched out ideas for better portable x-ray machines while he was an inpatient at Methodist University Hospital in Memphis (Liver Transplant). It would be interesting to see what his ideas were.

  4. Did the physician have a second opinion? I am certain his oncologist would.
    So, iPhone have proven effective in diagnosising a possible tumor in one out of one patients.

  5. The exciting part of this is that it is Version one of a new product. Maturing the product may well focus on improving software, or increasing the resolution of the images.

    The ability to have ambulances carrying a mature version is exciting.

    As is the potential of Medics in the military having these in the field. especially in the area of soft tissue trauma.

    Exmciting potential

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