U-Blok is a new generation ultrasound machine featuring portability, many anesthesia-specific features and a very reasonable price. Weighing-in at less than two pounds, it packs many options not present in other ultrasound devices. The system easily generates video files of your procedures in either "avi" or "wmv" format, and you can create PDF reports that are stored locally or in the cloud and are ideal for billing and documentation. If you want to save images, again you can save them in multiple formats such as "jpeg", "png", "bmp", "tiff", etc. and these are saved like their video counterparts both on your local hard drive, network, or cloud. The current version of U-Blok ships with the Microsoft Surface 3 Pro tablet.
U-Blok on MS Surface 2 - Popliteal Block
U-Blok, was designed by an anesthesiologist and for anesthesiologists. The system is composed of three basic components:
1) MS Surface 3 tablet running Windows 10.
2) A USB probe. (There are three probes available, a regional anesthesia probe, a deep probe for
sciatic nerve blocks, and a vascular probe.)
3) A touch-based user interface which is Windows 10 ready.
While the system does not pretend to have the image quality of $50,000 systems, you can easily perform any block commonly used in anesthesia. U-Blok Turbo in fact uses the same algorithms for post-image processing that are used by its competitors.
Pros and Cons
The system is perhaps the least expensive ultrasound device for use in anesthesia. If the user is new to ultrasound, proper use of U-Blok will require the same training and expertise that is needed in more expensive systems.
Select from three frequencies while performing your blocks: 6 MHz, 15 MHz, and 24 MHz.
All of its probes have the identical footprint which is approximately 3 cm long and 1 cm wide. The beam on the screen is not the traditional rectangle shape but instead more like a cone or bell. You quickly get used to this since most of the action during an ultrasound procedure does not happen at the top of the screen.
Device maintenance is very inexpensive compared to other companies since the hardware is standard Windows tablets or convertible tablets. Software updates are a breeze and are done in seconds via a quick connection to the internet.
The current version of U-Blok does not support Doppler, a feature not really needed in anesthesia.
Neuraxiom flash files are part of the system, and while a user is doing a block, a small window with anatomy drawings will guide him to success with little or no experience.
The system requires little knowledge of ultrasound physics and it comes with pre-selects for blocks at different depths. An “advanced” mode allows the user to access all the traditional controls that an ultrasound device has for tweaking an image.
Videos of a procedure can be automatically uploaded to YouTube, or saved locally on the system's hard disk or SD card. Uploads are no different than when you shoot a video on your iPhone and push it to the cloud. The system even has an eClaim capability where its PDF reports can be directly uploaded to an FTP site.
Finally, the system is fully localized and ships by default in three languages, (English, French, Spanish) but it can be quickly translated to any including those having non-Latin characters such as Arabic, Mandarin, etc.
Designed for the individual - not the institution
Because of its price, the ideal user of U-Blok is the busy anesthesiologist who uses ultrasound frequently, and who does not want to depend on the limited availability of heavy and expensive devices where he works. Pain medicine specialists can also use U-Blok in their offices, and the product has also seen a keen interest from countries where ultrasound in this field is still a novelty.
Unique market approach
In order to maintain competitive prices, U-Blok is using the internet almost exclusively as its channel for selling its devices. Dealers are currently being signed up, but an anesthesiologist or surgicenter anywhere in the world can literally go online and purchase a new unit using PayPal.
The system is shipped from Nevada, USA, and is the brainchild of Dr. Leo Montejo (WiCis), also founder of Picis (Clinical Information Systems), WiCis, in partnership with Interson Corporation which builds the probes that were completely redesigned for anesthesia.