When it comes to saving lives, every second counts. The Renfrew County Paramedic Service is using a new tool to be quick and accurate in accessing injuries.

"Ultrasound is an opportunity to take a look inside," says Chief Michael Nolan.

The service has been using a portable, point of care ultrasound for over a year now. It allows paramedics to see inside paitents suffering from abdominal pain, chest injuries or cardiac arrest before they get to the hospital.

"The ultrasound allows the paramedic to have greater confidence in their decision-making and in their assessment and diagnosis," Nolan explains.

On top of their regular training, the paramedics went through a program at the Ottawa Hospital called ACES. Alongside cardiologists and emergency care doctors, they learned how to landmark, image and diagnose the issue at hand.

The device allows them to diagnose internal bleeding or a collapsed lung, then plan treatment accordingly. But it's more than just diagnosing injuries.

"Finding something as simple as a vein on a patient who's in critical condition can be a challenge," says Nolan. "Ultrasound can help us guide that IV insertion and gain that critical access to the patient."

They've gone through five different models, but have finally found one they like. The service currently has two of the machines, but if it continues to be successful, they plan to order more.

Working in rural areas, it's crucial to be accurate with a diagnosis.

"The trauma centre would be a great example of the ultrasound allowing that paramedic to accurately diagnosis the issue and decide that...we're going to drive for an hour because this patient needs surgical intervention that isn't otherwise available."

Renfrew County is the only paramedic service in Ontario using the ultrasounds. They're doing case studies in the hopes of expanding the program.

"It's an acknowledgement that paramedics as clinicians can quickly adapt to changing technology and can use it in a portable, mobile, robust setting," Nolan says.