There is no question that medical ultrasound is quickly becoming a valuable tool in musculoskeletal (MSK) medicine. Providers are realizing that this modality allows for quick evaluation in the office and even has a higher resolution than MRI. Research shows, for example, that scanning a shoulder to evaluate for a rotator cuff tear is faster, cheaper, and at least as sensitive and specific as ordering an MRI.
Where using this modality for MSK medicine will have a huge impact is within occupational medicine.
In occupational medicine, we are tasked with providing quality care for patients while simultaneously enabling patients, institutions, corporations, and the overall health care system to save money. For practitioners, MSK ultrasound allows us to accomplish both of these goals. Widely utilized by our counterparts in European medical schools and hospitals, MSK ultrasound’s use in occupational medicine is still in its early stages in the United States. This means that occupational medicine is one specialty that stands to reap significant clinical benefits from its use.
But in order to understand the potential, and to position MSK ultrasound at the forefront of occupational medicine education, I conducted a little research.
Last year, I conducted a survey to learn how many occupational medicine program directors and residents were using MSK ultrasound and how many wanted to use it. The survey results confirmed that it was not widely used in occupational medicine residency programs. In fact, only a couple of programs use it and they do so cursorily. The results also showed that most had a sincere interest in learning to use it, but there was not a program in place.
Since residency programs produce the field’s future physicians, I designed a multidisciplinary MSK ultrasound course to teach the basics to attendings and residents. Weekly sessions focused on specific anatomic regions to help provide a foundation for identifying pathology and improve interventional skills. This “how to” manuscript was recently published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Moving forward, I am presenting an introductory level lecture at the occupational medicine national conference (AOHC) to further demonstrate how MSK ultrasound could potentially be widely used in our field. I hope to introduce “hands-on” workshops over the course of the next few years to give the field a chance to learn this modality and implement it into practice. My goals are to see occupational medicine practitioners provide the highest standard of health care for this unique hardworking population of patients, while concurrently reducing costs for workers’ compensation claims.
What can AIUM provide occupational medicine to help further the use of ultrasound? What other areas are on the verge of being transformed by ultrasound? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.
Yusef Sayeed, MD, MPH, MEng, CPH, is an occupational medicine Chief Resident at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV.