Ultrasound training should be implemented early into medical education programs

January 23, 2014, World Heart Federation

A paper in this month's edition of Global Heart (the journal of the World Heart Federation advocates including ultrasound in medical education programmes to realise the full benefits of the technology as early as possible. The review is by J. Christian Fox, Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine and Director of Instructional Ultrasound at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine, CA, USA, and colleagues.

Ultrasound technology has advanced to the point that many point-of-care examinations can be carried out using ultrasound, including the advent of hand-held devices similar in size to smartphones. "Emergency physicians, intensivists, and other acute care clinicians are using and relying on critical care ultrasound imaging to better triage and diagnose patients at the point of care. As this new frontier of medicine continues to forge forward using this new and improving technology, we strongly believe in integrating ultrasound training earlier into the curriculum," say the authors.

They outline a number of medical scenarios such as patients with chest pain, shortness of breath, and shock, and detail how ultrasound can be much more accurate in helping healthcare workers diagnosing problems in these circumstances. However, they also caution about the limitations of ultrasound, saying that "it is sometimes difficult to determine the difference between acute versus chronic problems in an individual. This can be a confounding finding in an acute setting, in the event that a physician needs to make a treatment decision that could be attributed more to a chronic diagnosis."

However, overall they point to findings that show "Not only is ultrasound more comprehensive and accurate than physical examination, but it also helps with earlier detection of potentially life-threatening conditions, such as cardiac tamponade and confirmation of pulseless electrical activity... it is argued that point-of-care ultrasound should be, rather than optional, an essential part of any examination to help physicians develop and narrow down their differential diagnosis."

The authors also refer to a study by Kobal et al demonstrating the potential in extending ultrasound education into the medical school curriculum. Their study compared the physical exam (using non-ultrasound devices such as stethoscopes) done by trained cardiologists to the diagnostic accuracy of ultrasounds done by medical students. This study concluded that not only were students capable of capturing images of cardiac pathology on patients, but their diagnostic skills were far superior in detecting valvular disease, left ventricular hypertrophy, and cardiac dysfunction than those of trained cardiologists performing physical exams.

The authors conclude: "It is becoming increasingly apparent that training our medical students to use ultrasound earlier in their careers can allow them to develop diagnostic skills that far exceed the traditional exam that physicians have been taught for centuries. Thus, it is impossible to ignore the impact ultrasound has made within medical education. Ultrasound has played an essential role in point-of-care cardiac diagnostics, and implementing training into medical education is the next logical step to enable the progression of point-of-care ultrasonography."

Explore further: X-rays overused in ICU: Ultrasound safer, just as effective

Related Stories

X-rays overused in ICU: Ultrasound safer, just as effective

October 28, 2013
A new study shows that the use of ultrasound testing rather than x-rays or CT scans in the ICU reduces patient radiation exposure and lowers costs of care. The study was presented at CHEST 2013, the annual meeting of the ...

Sports medicine physical of the future could help athletes 'ESCAPE' sudden cardiac death

January 23, 2014
A young athlete in seemingly excellent health dies suddenly from a previously undetected cardiovascular condition such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in nearly every U.S. state annually. Although these conditions can be detected ...

Support for ultrasound first in pediatric appendicitis diagnosis

December 14, 2013
(HealthDay)—During the transition to an ultrasound-first paradigm for imaging acute appendicitis in pediatric patients, there does not seem to be any increase in complicated appendicitis diagnoses or a longer median hospital ...

Radiologists, primary users of non-cardiac ultrasound

November 1, 2011
Although non-radiologist physicians have contributed to the widespread use of point-of-care (POC) ultrasound, radiologists remain the primary users, according to a study in the November issue of the Journal of the American ...

Ultrasound spin-out to treat cancer and back pain

January 23, 2014
Oxford University spin-out company OxSonics has announced plans to use ultrasound technology to deliver advanced therapies for difficult-to-treat cancers and chronic low back pain.

Recommended for you

A nanoparticle inhalant for treating heart disease

January 18, 2018
A team of researchers from Italy and Germany has developed a nanoparticle inhalant for treating people suffering from heart disease. In their paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the group describes ...

Starting periods before age of 12 linked to heightened risk of heart disease and stroke

January 15, 2018
Starting periods early—before the age of 12—is linked to a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke in later life, suggests an analysis of data from the UK Biobank study, published online in the journal Heart.

'Decorated' stem cells could offer targeted heart repair

January 10, 2018
Although cardiac stem cell therapy is a promising treatment for heart attack patients, directing the cells to the site of an injury - and getting them to stay there - remains challenging. In a new pilot study using an animal ...

Two simple tests could help to pinpoint cause of stroke

January 10, 2018
Detecting the cause of the deadliest form of stroke could be improved by a simple blood test added alongside a routine brain scan, research suggests.

Exercise is good for the heart, high blood pressure is bad—researchers find out why

January 10, 2018
When the heart is put under stress during exercise, it is considered healthy. Yet stress due to high blood pressure is bad for the heart. Why? And is this always the case? Researchers of the German Centre for Cardiovascular ...

Heart-muscle patches made with human cells improve heart attack recovery

January 10, 2018
Large, human cardiac-muscle patches created in the lab have been tested, for the first time, on large animals in a heart attack model. This clinically relevant approach showed that the patches significantly improved recovery ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.