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BEDFORD Bedford Fire Department paramedics are being trained to use a new tool: Ultrasound.

'They're looking for free fluid in a patient's abdomen... free fluid around their heart... or free fluid down in their pelvis,' explained sonographer Stacy Brown.

It's called a FAST exam, which stands for 'focused assessment with sonography for trauma.' The 'fluid' they are looking for is a telltale sign of internal bleeding.

Using ultrasound in ambulances as a diagnostic tool has been done before, but this may be the first time those images will be transmitted live to a nearby hospital for real-time analysis.

John Peter Smith in Fort Worth, North Hills Hospital, and Baylor hospitals in Grapevine, Irving, and Las Colinas are all taking part in the trial. Doctors there can read the ultrasound in real-time to determine if the patient should bypass the emergency room and go directly to an operating room to stop the bleeding.

'It will save their life,' said Dr. Roy Yamada, medical director for Bedford and ten other fire departments. He said trauma patients often bleed to death before they make it to surgery.

This program could save lives otherwise lost.

'I think if it were my wife, my uncle, or my kids, that's big... that's huge,' Dr. Yamada said. 'To save the one life, that's what we're looking for.'

Officials said use of the ultrasound can also determine which patients aren't as critically injured. Knowing in advance could save some patients a hefty bill when they might otherwise be transported to the hospital in a helicopter ambulance.

Two ground ambulances each in Bedford, Hurst, and at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport will be equipped with the ultrasound units, and the program is scheduled to start on July 1.

If the 90-day trial saves lives, it will be expanded to more Tarrant County cities.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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