Point-of-Care Ultrasound Enhances Preventive Care Among Expectant Mothers in Guatemala
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The 2021 POCUS World Conference was a gateway to learning new point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) clinical applications, meeting with manufacturers to experience the latest POCUS devices, and participating in setting standards for the pocket-size device. When attendees weren’t building upon their current POCUS knowledge, they were involved in sessions that furnished additional evidence for increasing awareness and use of the revolutionary modality. These sessions allowed attendees further exposure to the vital need of expanding POCUS access in resource-limited areas.
The POCUS in Guatemala for Expecting Mothers poster session was one such program initiative that provided this particular insight—hosted by Mr. Christian Roberts, Founder and Lead Clinician of Healing Hands of the Highlands. He gave a vivid depiction of the maternal health condition in the country. Robert’s description provided a use case for the inclusion of POCUS within Guatemala’s medical infrastructure.
The background incorporated in the presentation documented events that influenced the region’s healthcare system and the misconceptions that precede it. The Guatemalan Civil War had a sweeping effect on medicine, leaving many of its native-born skeptical of modern-day treatment. Limited access to healthcare, along with management issues, doesn’t help the cause. Though this tidal wave effect plagues most of the country’s residents, disparities have mainly impacted the indigenous community.
Maternal health among this group has significantly struggled. Guatemala has the highest infant mortality rate among Central American countries. Roberts shared that in 2019, there were 20.7 deaths for every 1,000 live births. Factors that contributed to this staggering figure include training and funding. Midwives in the country are usually government trained, which consists of teaching that is outdated and life-threatening. According to Roberts, the lack of funding results in hundreds of thousands of pregnant women going without prenatal care and almost none receiving an ultrasound scan of their unborn baby.
Healing Hands of Highlands is on a mission to change this current forecast. Roberts’ poster session included findings from the Healthy Pregnancy Project study. This project is a portable prenatal care kit explicitly designed for remote areas like the rural communities many women in Guatemala reside. Medical professionals in the region are trained and equipped with a backpack that includes a computer, a POCUS scanner powered by a foldable solar panel, and blood and urine analysis systems.
Armed with their prenatal care kit, local providers organize days where women can come and be tested for possible pregnancy or obtain a prenatal scan. Local health personnel then examine test results and ultrasound images for potential complications and health risks. Having this information early empowers medical providers. They can act expediently in establishing a customized care plan for each patient.
Ongoing Work of POCUS
The project deployed in Guatemala has been profound. Health professionals have been able to combat the high infant and maternal mortality rate through preventive medicine. The application of POCUS during prenatal care diagnoses pregnancy conditions that can be treated effectively with early detection. The Healthy Pregnancy Project reaffirms that early referral is one of POCUS’s most prominent benefits impacting maternal health.
Roberts reiterates that this advantage goes beyond physical well-being. POCUS is also providing hope. The mothers on the other end of its scanner are able to see their baby on the screen and hear a heartbeat for the first time. This incalculable encounter reassures them that all is well. POCUS delivers a gift of a lifetime to the Guatemalan women who have previously suffered loss during pregnancy. The comfort the modality offers allows expectant mothers to continue through the duration of their pregnancy stress-free, healthy also in mind.
The integration of POCUS in medicine has been transformative and has redefined patient care. The life-saving impacts have been undeniable, to say the least. However, Roberts reminds us that the work must continue. There’s still more ground to cover. Join your peers and the Point-of-Care Ultrasound Certification Academy™ in growing awareness and increasing the education of POCUS.
Visit our POCUS community page to learn more about the various opportunities we have available for you to support the growth and vibrancy of the POCUS movement. Your expertise, vision, and passion for seeing patient care unrestricted and accessible to all worldwide have a place here. We look forward to working with you in extending the POCUS mission.