Title:
Wearable support apparatus for portable diagnostic ultrasound systems
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A wearable support apparatus (carrying case) for a portable diagnostic ultrasound instrument is disclosed. The carrying case has a sleeve or compartment for holding a portable ultrasound device as well as pockets for carrying accessory items needed for the normal operation of the ultrasound instrument. The ultrasound instrument may be used while still in the carrying case without the need to remove the device from the carrying case. The device may be carried without occupying the hands of the user through the employment of the carrying case. Alternative embodiments are indicated for providing padded protection to the ultrasound device, and flaps for covering the control surfaces of the ultrasound instrument when not in use.



Inventors:
Schultz, John D. (Issaquah, WA, US)
Barnes, Stephanie (Bellevue, WA, US)
Deilke, Michael (Seattle, WA, US)
Epps, Brian (Seattle, WA, US)
Application Number:
09/848958
Publication Date:
02/07/2002
Filing Date:
05/04/2001
Assignee:
SCHULTZ JOHN D.
BARNES STEPHANIE
DEILKE MICHAEL
EPPS BRIAN
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D85/38; G01S15/89; (IPC1-7): B65D85/38
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Primary Examiner:
GARBE, STEPHEN P
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Townsend, And Townsend And Crew (TWO EMBARCADERO CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO, CA, 94111-3834, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A wearable support apparatus for a portable ultrasound diagnostic instrument comprising: a) a sleeve for slidably receiving a console of the instrument, the sleeve configured to expose a visual display and manual controls on the console, and b) an adjustable strap for support of the instrument.

2. The wearable support apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a handle for carrying the portable ultrasound diagnostic instrument.

3. The wearable support apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a shoulder strap for carrying the portable ultrasound diagnostic instrument and permitting a user to have both hands free.

4. The wearable support apparatus of claim 1, further comprising one or more areas having a textured outer surface to facilitate gripping the wearable support apparatus while a portable ultrasound diagnostic instrument is placed within the sleeve, the textured outer surfaces being arranged to enhance one handed operation of the portable ultrasound diagnostic instrument within the sleeve without interfering in the use of the visual display or the manual controls.

5. The wearable support apparatus of claim 1, wherein the apparatus is made from a durable material fabric having one or more frame support members for providing structural support to the wearable support apparatus.

6. The wearable support apparatus of claim 1, further comprising one or more pockets for holding additional accessories for use with the portable ultrasound diagnostic instrument.

7. A carrying case for a portable ultrasound instrument comprising a compartment for holding the portable diagnostic ultrasound instrument such that the carrying case fits snuggly around the physical form of the portable ultrasound instrument, and having one or more apertures for exposing the display screen, control interface and input/output ports of the portable ultrasound instrument, and a flap for each apertures such that the aperture may be covered when the portable ultrasound instrument is not in use.

8. The carrying case of claim 7, further comprising a transparent barrier sealing the aperture for the display screen, said transparent barrier prohibiting a user from physically touching the display screen, but allowing the screen to be viewed by a user.

9. The carrying case of claim 7, wherein each flap has a means for securing the flap in either an exposed or covering position.

10. The carrying case of claim 7, having one or more pockets for storing peripheral devices associated with the normal use of the portable diagnostic ultrasound instrument.

11. The carrying case of claim 7 having a weight bearing limit of twenty (20) pounds.

12. The carrying case of claim 7, further comprising a means for carrying the carrying case.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCES TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims priority from the U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/202,519 filed May 5, 2000.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] This invention relates generally to medical ultrasonic diagnostic systems, and more particularly the invention relates to a wearable support apparatus for portable diagnostic ultrasound systems.

[0003] Modem ultrasonic diagnostic systems are typically large, complex instruments. Today's premium ultrasound systems, while mounted in carts for portability, continue to weigh several hundred pounds. In the past, ultrasound systems such as the ADR 4000 ultrasound system produced by Advanced Technology Laboratories, Inc. were smaller desk top units about the size of a personal computer. However, such instruments lack many of the advanced features of today's premium ultrasounds systems such as color Doppler imaging and three dimensional display capabilities. As ultrasound systems become more sophisticated they also become bulkier.

[0004] Disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,722,412 is a diagnostic ultrasound instrument which exhibits many of the features of a premium ultrasound system in a hand-held unit. The instrument can be produced as a single unit or in a preferred embodiment the instrument is a two-part unit one including a transducer, beamformer, and image processor and the other including a display and power source for both units. In such a configuration the transducer/processor unit can be manipulated with one hand with a cable between the two units enabling the video to be shown on the display unit while the lateral unit is held or positioned for optimal viewing of the ultrasound image. The cable also provides energy for the transducer/processor unit from the display unit.

[0005] The present invention is directed to a mobile ultrasound diagnostic instrument such as disclosed in the ‘412 patent and a wearable support apparatus which facilitates independent use of the instrument for diagnostic purposes.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0006] In accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention, a mobile ultrasound diagnostic instrument includes a wearable support apparatus for a self-powered ultrasound console. The console includes electronics for driving a transducer array and processing reflected ultrasound waves, and a visual display for processed ultrasound waves. The support apparatus includes a sleeve for slidably receiving the console of the instrument, the sleeve being configured to expose the visual display and manual controls of the console. A closure secures the console in the sleeve. A unique support strap allows transport of the ultrasound console in the support apparatus worn flat against the body, while allowing adjustment of the console to a secure position perpendicular to the body while in use. A non-slip pad at the bottom of the sleeve enhances stability in this position.

[0007] In accordance with features of the invention, the apparatus can include pockets or straps for storage or transport of transducers or accessories associated with the ultrasound device or its use. The sleeve can further include a power connector for mating with a power connector of the console for operating the console and for charging batteries in the console. The sleeve can further include a carrying handle for use when the apparatus is not worn, and various covers and closures that allow access to components of the console. In the preferred embodiment, the sleeve incorporates padding and rigid members for protection of the console in a portable environment. A pocket on the back of the sleeve allows storage of a transducer cable.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0008] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a wearable support apparatus in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

[0009] FIG. 2 is another perspective view of the apparatus of FIG. 1 showing features of the apparatus.

[0010] FIGS. 3A and 3B are a perspective view of the apparatus and use of the apparatus by a human operator, respectively.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF ILLUSTRATIVE EMBODIMENT

[0011] A wearable support apparatus shown generally at 10 is disclosed in FIGS. 1, 2, 3A and 3B for use with a portable ultrasound device 12. The wearable support apparatus provides a user of a portable ultrasound device with a comfortable and safe manner of carrying the portable ultrasound device. The wearable support apparatus comprises a sleeve 14 for slidably receiving portable ultrasound instrument (console) 12. An adjustable strap is used to help keep the device in place. The portable ultrasound instrument itself is generally small and about the same volume as a telephone directory or telephone book and weighing less than fifteen (15) pounds. Portable ultrasound instruments have numerous areas on it for a user to interact with. Typical of such devices are those disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,135,961 and pending U.S. application Ser. No. 09/564,299.

[0012] The wearable support apparatus provides a means for a user 20 (FIG. 3B) to carry the relatively delicate device while having the users hands free to do other things when transporting the portable ultrasound instrument. This is achieved through the use of a shoulder strap or harness 22, or a pair of shoulder straps allowing the device to be carried in much the same way as a backpack. However the portable ultrasound instrument need not be removed from the wearable support apparatus to be used. Unlike backpacks or specially designed padded brief cases used for laptop computers, the wearable support apparatus is configured to expose the necessary surfaces of the portable ultrasound instrument that a user would need to have access to in order to operate the portable ultrasound instrument while it is still secure within the wearable support apparatus. The apparatus may have an aperture for the display screen 24 of the ultrasound instrument allowing the user to directly view the readouts on the display screen. The aperture may be sealed with a clear plastic cover 26 allowing the user to view the screen while also protecting the display screen from direct contact with a foreign object. Similarly the apertures for the input/output jacks (such as data out, scanhead connector, audio and visual out, ECG cable, etc.) may be exposed, or covered by a flap 28 having a Velcro or similar attachment means. The attachment means may be a clasp, a plastic clip, a fastener, button, zipper or any other simple closure device.

[0013] The wearable support apparatus preferably has additional pockets 30, 32, 34 for carrying accessories associated with the normal operation of the portable ultrasound instrument. These accessories may include (but are not limited too) a scanhead, a spare battery, an ECG module, scanhead gel, data cables or miscellaneous medical supplies.

[0014] The wearable support apparatus is preferably made from a material similar to that used in modern backpacks, “fanny bags” and carrying cases. The material used for making the wearable support apparatus is not in of itself part of the present invention. Similar to a backpack, the wearable support apparatus may have a pair of shoulder straps for carrying the portable ultrasound instrument on a persons back, or the apparatus may have a single handle 36 for carrying like a brief case, or a shoulder strap for carrying similar to a purse. As ultrasound instrument continue to decrease in both size and bulk it will be possible to use a neck strap to carry the instrument around a person's neck.

[0015] In operation of the instrument, as shown in FIG. 3B a user is able to access all the control features of the ultrasound instrument without removing the instrument from the wearable support apparatus. The user has access to the display panel and the scanhead and can perform a diagnostic ultrasound scan with one hand while holding the portable ultrasound instrument with the other hand. The wearable support apparatus may further comprise one or more textured surfaces to provide a better ergonomic “hand hold” for a user to grip the ultrasound instrument with.

[0016] To provide additional protection for the portable ultrasound instrument, the wearable support apparatus may be padded, or have support ridges or structures to protect the instrument against accidental impacts such as banging into another object, or accidental dropping of the instrument.

[0017] While the invention has been described with respect to one embodiment, the description is illustrative of the invention and not to be construed as limiting the invention. Thus many modifications and applications may be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the true spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.