Clinical Tests Worldwide

“A pregnancy test and a dip urine,” Dr. St. Louis responded. “Wow!” I replied in surprise. Having completed a fellowship in global health, I had learned that testing was severely limited in resource-limited settings, particularly outside of normal business hours. This was still impressive. We had just been discussing how things were going with his new job at Princess Alice Hospital and what tests were available overnight in his workplace that is located in the eastern mountains of Grenada. During weekday daytime hours, imaging is limited to plain film x-ray. Occasionally, there is an ultrasound technician also available. If desperate, the technicians can be called in from home. All other tests: blood, urine, CSF, must be batched and sent by car via a winding, serpiginous road over a mountain to the capital. If they’re lucky, you may get the test result in about 6 hours; however, most take up to 12 hours. Most advanced imaging, CT and MRI, are only available in the private sector.

I first met Dr. Daniel St. Louis just a few weeks after beginning the Masters of Emergency Medicine program offered by the University of Guyana and started with the help of Emergency Medicine faculty and Vanderbilt University. With other emergency medicine colleagues, I had spent a lot of time helping him learn to perform, interpret, and apply point-of-care ultrasound studies during his training in the Accident and Emergency Department at Georgetown Public Hospital before he returned to his native island in the south Caribbean. Dr. St. Louis immediately saw the benefit of ultrasound during his training and requested every piece of material possible to be able to master sonography.

The care that Daniel and his colleagues provide with limited testing is really impressive. But of all tests that Dr. St. Louis could be equipped with while caring for a sick patient on an overnight shift, ultrasound is uniquely valuable. Bedside ultrasound doesn’t require a technician, it is reusable, it is versatile, it provides rapid diagnosis of many critical illnesses, and it provides the diagnosis to actionable diseases where lives hang in the balance of the minutes and hours ultrasound saves. There are more significant tests: a microscope and Giemsa stain in a malaria endemic zone or rapid HIV testing at the national public health level. But when I was standing in front of a child in shock from shrapnel wounds outside Mosul, Iraq, an ultrasound probe is what I want most.

As bedside ultrasound machines continue to become more portable and more affordable, the significance of bedside ultrasound will continue to grow. This is true in a large academic tertiary medical center, in regional access hospitals in Grenada, and in critical access health posts in the most remote regions of the globe. AIUM and its members are uniquely positioned to aid in providing equipment and, more importantly, providing education and techniques to help improve the quality of bedside ultrasound as one of the most important clinical tests worldwide. Will we be up for the challenge?

If you work in a resource-limited setting, how is ultrasound most useful for you? How have you seen ultrasound incorporated into medical care in other nations? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Jordan Rupp, MD, RDMS, is an Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Director for Global Sounds:  Ultrasound Development Project.  Read more about Global Sounds at www.globalsoundsproject.org or continue the conversation on Twitter:  @globalsounds_us.

Storing Blood as a Dry Powder

Did you know that blood can only be stored for up to 6 weeks when refrigerated? Because synthetic blood is not available in the clinic, blood supplies must be continually replenished from healthy donors. Even if there is a surge in blood donations at one point in time, 6 weeks later there could be shortages if continued donations do not meet the current demand. Blood can be frozen for a decade or more but significant challenges in processing blood for frozen storage limit this option to specific situations such as for rare blood types or military use. The freezing process currently utilizes high concentrations of glycerol to protect red blood cells during frozen storage but this compound must be removed prior to transfusion, and the de-glycerolization process is very sensitive and time-consuming. Therefore, most hospitals and medical centers utilize refrigeration for blood storage.

What if, instead of refrigerating or freezing blood, there was a method to freeze-dry blood for long-term storage as a dry powder, similar to the process used for astronaut food? This could enable long-term blood storage at room temperature, and when the blood is needed for transfusion the cells could be quickly reconstituted simply by adding sterile water. Not only would this offer another option for long-term storage, it would be particularly useful in situations where refrigeration or freezing is not available, such as in some remote medical centers or for the military in far-forward settings. In addition, this method could enable stockpiles of strategic blood reserves in order to maintain an adequate blood supply during disasters such as hurricanes, which disrupt blood donations.

Blood cells dried

Electron microscopy image of red blood cells after drying/rehydration following ultrasound-mediated loading with preservative compounds.

The idea of turning blood into a dry powder and then rehydrating it for transfusion may sound like science fiction, but could it become a reality? Can nature provide clues to help us solve this problem? There are many cases in history where significant scientific breakthroughs were achieved by studying nature. For example, the Wright brothers studied the characteristics of birds’ wings during flight to discover an effective design for airplane wings. Also, Alessandro Volta invented the battery after carefully studying the electric organ in torpedo fish. In the context of cell preservation, it has been found that some organisms can survive complete desiccation for long periods of time. For example, tardigrades and brine shrimp (“water bears” and “sea monkeys”) can be dried out and remain in a state that approaches “suspended animation” for decades, but when they are rehydrated they return to normal physiological function and can even reproduce. This led us to ask the question, if these complex multicellular animals can survive desiccation, why not individual red blood cells? Scientists have found that these organisms produce protective compounds, including certain sugars and proteins, which prevent damage to their membranes during drying and rehydration.

Unfortunately, human cells do not have the transporters in their membranes that enable internalization of the protective compounds found in organisms that can survive desiccation. Therefore, an active loading method is required. We realized that the process of ultrasound-mediated drug delivery via sonoporation could potentially be applied to solve this problem and enable delivery of protective compounds into human red blood cells. In the past, most ultrasound research has either ignored red blood cells or attempted to minimize sonoporation in these cells. But what if we could intentionally sonoporate red blood cells outside of the body in order to actively load them with protective compounds so that they could be stored as a dry powder at room temperature until needed for transfusion?

Our initial efforts to load red blood cells with protective compounds for storage as a dry powder have been promising. We prepared solutions containing red blood cells, preservative compounds, and microbubbles followed by treatment with B-mode ultrasound for ~60 seconds. After ultrasound treatment, the cells were freeze-dried and stored as a dried powder at room temperature (21–23 °C) for 6 weeks or longer. Cells were rehydrated with water and we measured up to 30% recovery of viable red blood cells. In addition, we performed electron microscopy imaging of the rehydrated red blood cells and observed evidence of normal biconcave-discoid shape. Our next steps involve testing the rehydrated cells in an animal model of acute hemorrhage in order to assess the function and safety of the red blood cells in vivo after dry storage at room temperature.

Research studies are currently ongoing and much more work remains to be done before clinical translation is possible, but if it is successful this approach could have a significant impact on blood supply, particularly in locations where refrigeration and freezing are not available. In addition, this approach could potentially enable dry storage of other cell products. As I consider the possibilities of this approach, I wonder if there are other things that we can learn from nature that could also transform medical practice.

Have you learned something else from nature that has been incorporated into your medical practice? Do you have any ideas that could potentially transform medical practice? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Jonathan Kopechek is an Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Louisville. His Twitter handle is @ProfKope.

Flying Samaritans, the Seed to Pediatric Point-of-Care Ultrasound

There are some experiences in life that seem to have a tremendous impact on the person you become, and the career path you decide to take. When I started working with the Flying Samaritans in medical school, little did I know that it would change the trajectory of my career.

Kids from El Testerazo Mexico

The kids I fell in love with in El Testerazo, holding the pictures I had taken and shared with them. They came by even if they weren’t sick. Of note, they are now in their 20s with families of their own.

Since the UC Irvine School of Medicine was so close to the USA-Mexico border, the UC Irvine Flying Samaritans chapter was actually a driving chapter. Each month we drove down to El Testerazo, Mexico, to give medical care and medications to an underserved community. I immediately fell in love with the community and the children of El Testerazo, Mexico. They would all laugh at my then broken high school-level Spanish but would appreciate my trying. There was also something about the group of undergraduates (who ran the clinic), medical students, residents, and attending physicians who volunteered their time there that brought back the humanity to medicine. The experience was challenging and rewarding at the same time—to work with limited resources, but to become a trusted member of their community was priceless. Each time I went to the “Flying Sams” clinic, I remembered why I went into medicine in the first place.

During my time with the “Flying Sams,” I worked with a then Emergency Medicine resident, Chris Fox. When he told me he was going to Chicago to do a 1-year Emergency Ultrasound fellowship, I thought he was crazy.

Old ultrasound machine

The ancient beast of an ultrasound machine that we had in the “Flying Sams” clinic.

Not only was he leaving sunny Southern California, but he was going to spend a year looking at ultrasounds? When I looked at ultrasounds, I could barely make out structures; images looked like the old tube TVs from the 1980s. When Fox returned, he said, “Steph, the next big thing will be pediatric ultrasound.” Again, I thought he was crazy. But slowly, by seeing how ultrasound impacted the management of our patients in El Testerazo, I realized the brilliance in this craziness. Chris Fox’s enthusiasm and “sonoevangelism” was infectious. I think nearly everyone in the “Flying Sams” ended up eventually doing an ultrasound fellowship. Even though the ultrasound machine in the clinic was old, and images were of limited quality, we were still able to impact the medical care of this community that became near and dear to my heart.

And so it began…my passion for emergency ultrasound (now referred to as point-of-care ultrasound) and for Global Health. My initial goal was to become good at performing ultrasounds. As I quickly realized, I was one of the only people who had experience in pediatric point-of-care ultrasound. I felt a tremendous responsibility to become as knowledgeable and skilled as possible if I were going to teach others this powerful tool. After 4 years of undergraduate education, 4 years of medical school, 3 years of a Pediatrics residency, and 3 years of a Pediatric Emergency Medicine fellowship, I decided to do an additional 1-year fellowship in Emergency Ultrasound. With medical school loans looming and so many years without a “real job,” I was reluctant to do this. This California girl moved from sunny Southern California to Manhattan to embark on a 1-year Emergency Ultrasound fellowship. This was a move far outside of my comfort zone for so many reasons. And that was one of the reasons why it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It has been a privilege to be a part of this growing community… to take better care of the most vulnerable of patients… and to give this tool to other doctors around the world. I certainly would have never had these experiences or opportunities if it weren’t for the “Flying Sams” and Chris Fox; to both, I am forever grateful.

 Are you involved in global medical education? If so, what led to your decision to go into the field? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Stephanie J. Doniger, MD, RDMS, FAAP, FACEP is the Editor of the first pediatric point-of-care ultrasound textbook “Pediatric Emergency and Critical Care Ultrasound,” and is currently practicing Pediatric Emergency Medicine and Point-of-Care Ultrasound in New York. She has additional training in Tropical Medicine and is in charge of Pediatric POCUS education for WINFOCUS Latinamerica.

WFUMB 2017 Taipei

We recently had the opportunity to travel to Taipei for the 16th World Federation for Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology (WFUMB) Congress. Given that it was our first international conference and our first time traveling to Asia, we knew we had an exciting opportunity in attending this conference, but there was some apprehension and concerns about logistics and what to expect with international travel. The conference planning committee, however, really put in hard work to plan a wonderful conference and execute the conference without many hitches. The conference staff members were unbelievable— they were always happy to help, ensured that everyone knew where to go, communicated with conference guests professionally, ensured excellent delivery of talks, and even assisted in tours of the countryside. Every detail was attended to by the planning committee. Our apprehensions about the conference and a foreign land evaporated the first day, as we were fascinated by the beauty of the city and the hospitality of the citizens.

Dr Yusef Sayeed and Dr Kate Sully

 

Yusef:

Last Spring I was approached by AIUM to present a lecture at WFUMB. I had served in leadership roles within AIUM and presented sessions at the national conferences already, so I was happy to be able to serve in this role. I presented a few talks that covered topics from regional blockade for acute trauma to interventional guidance with a focus on regenerative medicine techniques. I thought that these would be good additions to an ultrasound conference because this is a relatively new approach to treating musculoskeletal pain and injury.

As an interventional pain physician with primary specialty training in occupational medicine, that evaluates and treats work injury with interventional techniques, I was astounded to see the level of training and use of ultrasound for the evaluation and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders. Our international counterparts are doing much to advance the field in both diagnosis and treatment, which was apparent at the expansive range of presentations and posters at the conference. As the evidence continues to mount for the utility of ultrasound in the point-of-care model for musculoskeletal injuries in the United States, it has already been well established by our international counterparts. I am really looking forward to returning to WFUMB in the future and would encourage colleagues to attend this wonderful conference!

 

Kate:

Attending the WFUMB conference was really a remarkable experience. It allowed me, for the first time, to learn how medicine, and ultrasound in particular, is approached in another part of the world. But not just one other part of the world. In fact, 49 countries were represented at the conference, allowing me to connect and learn from colleagues I would never have met otherwise.

The conference lecture series was robust, with several different tracks tailored to multiple different specialties. As an interventional physiatrist, I use ultrasound to evaluate and treat musculoskeletal pathology. Each year at AIUM’s conference, there are several MSK lectures, some of which I have presented myself. At the WFUMB conference, the MSK lectures covered many topics, offered hands-on workshops, and included well thought-out research. I’ve long recognized that ultrasound is a fantastic tool in medicine and its utility in our country is expanding. I was happy to learn, however, that there is also outreach to integrate ultrasound in struggling nations as well and that WFUMB may be an excellent institute to facilitate that outreach. It’s notable to recognize that ultrasound can be such a valuable tool in different settings with very different financial means. In the closing ceremonies, I was humbled to receive the “Young Investigator Award” for research that I had presented that week, “Work-Related Repetitive Use Injuries in Ultrasound Fellows,” but I was especially grateful for a fantastic educational and cultural experience during my first international conference.

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How have you seen ultrasound incorporated into medical care in other nations? If you have attended any conferences that required international travel, what was your experience? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

 

Yusef Sayeed, MD, MPH, MEng, CPH, DABPM, is an interventional pain and occupational medicine specialist at the Battle Creek VA in Michigan.

Kate Sully, MD, DABPMR, is an interventional pain and physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at the Battle Creek VA in Michigan.

Internal Medicine and Bedside Ultrasound–A Match Made in Heaven

I am an internist who does bedside ultrasound. This has not always been true. From 1986, when I got my MD from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, to November 2011, I was a traditional internist, taking care of a panel of patients in a small university town in Idaho. I saw my patients in the office when they could walk or wheel in with their problems and in the hospital when they were sicker. I took call for my partners on rotating weekends and holidays. I occasionally ordered ultrasounds and echocardiograms and thought of them as blurry representations of internal structures that could be magically interpreted by radiologists.

In 2011, events such as the growing up of our 2 children allowed me to reconsider my choices of what to do with my MD. I had always wanted to do medicine in resource-poor settings overseas. I had often been curious about locum tenens work in other states, which would involve adventure and exposure to new practice styles and surprisingly generous compensation compared to my predominantly outpatient practice. I also had an urge to binge on continuing medical education courses, which I had denied myself for years due to responsibilities at home.

Janice Boughton, MD

One of the CME courses I treated myself to was an introductory course in emergency ultrasound through Harvard/Massachusetts General Hospital. It was wonderfully taught and I was immediately hooked. Ultrasound at the bedside would transform my practice and had the potential to transform the whole practice of internal medicine! The Cupid of bedside ultrasound had sunk his arrow straight between my eyes.

I went on to take more courses in bedside ultrasound both in person and online and bought myself a small pocket ultrasound, which rapidly developed my imaging skills. I began to use ultrasound clinically as a diagnostic tool within weeks of my first exposure. I discovered over-expanded bladders, failing hearts, pleural effusions, ascites, or lack thereof in my patients with big bellies. I became a better doctor and enjoyed my job more. My patients were happy to have benefitted from what looked to them like Star Trek technology.

I expected at any point that someone in the diverse hospitals where I served as a locum tenens hospitalist would ask for my credentials or forbid me to use ultrasound. I expected skepticism by cardiologists with whom I worked. I expected radiologists to be upset at me. I even did a 1-month UC Irvine mini-fellowship and ARDMS certification as a sonographer. These experiences gave me a vast amount more expertise and confidence but were mostly to ward off imagined disapproval. Yet nobody ever made me present my certification. Nobody disapproved to my face except one radiologist, who I’m still working on. Cardiology consultants were tickled to get imaging information in addition to history and vital signs. I may have benefitted from being in hospitals where people were too busy taking care of patients to fuss with me. It really seemed, though, that the vast majority of people with whom I worked realized that I was a better doctor with an ultrasound than without.

I have gone on to teach bedside ultrasound and participate in research on malaria and schistosomiasis with medical students in Tanzania. I have taught basic ultrasound to overburdened healthcare workers and physicians from Doctors Without Borders in South Sudan during its ongoing civil war. Knowing how to teach basic bedside ultrasound means I am valuable in resource-poor settings even if I can only stay for a couple of weeks. I have been able to teach my internal medicine colleagues in the US along with residents and medical students, which has been a wonderful opportunity for a nonacademic rural physician.

So what’s my point here? As an “early adopter” of bedside ultrasound in internal medicine, I have made myself a test case. So far these are the results:

  1. It wasn’t too hard to learn enough ultrasound to be a better doctor.
  2. There was never a time when I was too much of a novice to benefit from bedside imaging, yet every time I ultrasound a patient I learn something new. I can’t foresee a time when my learning will be complete.
  3. There has been surprisingly little push-back and a gratifying amount of appreciation.
  4. Bedside ultrasound is the perfect extension of the physical exam in internal medicine. It brought back my joy in physical diagnosis. We should all be doing it!

Have you used ultrasound in your internal medicine practice? Have you gone after ultrasound education after obtaining your degree? How can medical education be modified to encourage the widespread use of ultrasound by future internists? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Janice Boughton, MD, is an internist working as a staff Hospitalist at Gritman Medical center as well as is a locum tenens physician at other northwest hospitals. She also supervises and serves in rural health clinics, and blogs about bedside ultrasound and other issues at http://whyisamericanhealthcaresoexpensive.blogspot.com/?m=1.

A Victory for Humanity

Imagine the impact on healthcare in this country and around the world if all healthcare providers were equipped with a diagnostic and patient-management tool with the extraordinary power of ultrasound. Access to care would be improved, especially in under-served areas, quality of care would be improved across virtually every area of medicine, patient safety would be improved almost overnight, and the cost of healthcare could be decreased if the tool were used wisely.

Horace Mann, the great American education reformer, said “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” What a victory for humanity it would be to improve healthcare for billions of people throughout the world. As educators and practitioners of ultrasound, we are in a position to win a huge victory for humanity if we collectively embrace the “victory goal” of improved healthcare for all with ultrasound.

Hoppman Blog picture 3.7.17

I believe the place to start in the quest for this victory for humanity is with education. There are many we must educate about ultrasound—healthcare practitioners of virtually every specialty and at every level of healthcare provision and training; those who teach healthcare providers; those who make decisions concerning healthcare education, practice, financing, and regulations; biomedical researchers and the healthcare industry; and those who will ultimately be the greatest beneficiaries of every practitioner competently using ultrasound: patients and their families.

There are roles for all of us in the education of this diverse group of players. I would encourage you to give some thought to how you might help individuals in these various groups understand the power of ultrasound to transform healthcare. At the core of this transformation will need to be excellent education of all ultrasound practitioners at all levels of service they provide. This will require pooling the knowledge, skill, experience, and wisdom of all involved in ultrasound regardless of specialty, level of practice, or global location.

However, even with excellent education, I do not believe we can achieve this victory for humanity without the engagement and support of our colleagues in primary care. According to a report by the Association of American Medical Colleges in 2014, one-third of the almost 850,000 active physicians in the United States were Family Physicians, Internists, or Pediatricians. These are the 3 specialties usually classified as primary care providers but other specialties such as Emergency Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology also regularly provide primary care. There is also an increasing percentage of primary care being provided and supported by other healthcare providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants, as well as sonographers, midwives, medics, and emergency medical technicians. Thus, primary care providers as a group are the largest group of healthcare professionals in the country and probably the world.

On the frontlines of healthcare, these primary care practitioners can have an immediate and profound impact on healthcare through the use of ultrasound. It is very encouraging to note that within the various primary care sectors there are now champions of ultrasound emerging among both general membership as well as leadership as evidenced by the initiation of ultrasound interest groups and associated ultrasound societies in organizations such as the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Practitioners, and the American Academy of Physician Assistants. And kudos to the AIUM, its leadership, and membership for all they have done and are doing in education and in welcoming our primary care colleagues into our ultrasound family. We need to support the ultrasound efforts of these individuals and organizations and other organizations in any way we can. Working together we can take ultrasound education and practice to a level that will ensure a great victory for all of humanity.

In conclusion, as quoted by Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

What are your thoughts on ways to support the ultrasound efforts of primary care practitioners? How can medical education be modified to encourage the widespread use of ultrasound by future primary care practitioners? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Richard Hoppmann, MD, FACP, is Professor of Medicine, Past Dean, and Director of the Ultrasound Institute at University of South Carolina School of Medicine.

Why SonoStuff.com?

Three reasons:

As a co-director of technology enabled active learning (TEAL) at the UC Davis school of medicine I incorporate important technologies into the medical curriculum, which has primarily been point of care ultrasound (POCUS). Ultrasound is an incredible medical education tool and curriculum integration tool. It can be used to teach, reinforce, and expand lessons in anatomy, physiology, pathology, physical exam, and the list goes on.

I knew there was a better way to teach medical students thaschick_photo_1n standing in front of the classroom and giving a lecture. Student’s need to learn hands-on, spatial reasoning, and critical thinking skills to become excellent physicians. Teaching clinically relevant topics with ultrasound in small groups with individualized instruction
is the best strategy. I needed to flip the classroom.

I started by creating online lectures for an introduction to ultrasound lecture, thoracic anatomy, and abdominal anatomy:

Introduction to Ultrasound, POCUS

FAST Focused Assessment of Sonography in Trauma Part 1

FAST Focused Assessment of Sonography in Trauma Part 2

Aorta Exam AAA POCUS

Introduction in Cardiac Ultrasound POCUS

Topics quickly grew in scope and depth. I initially housed my lectures on YouTube and emailed them out to students before the ultrasound laboratory sessions. However, I wanted a platform that allowed for improved organization and showcasing. I needed a single oschick_photo_2nline resource they could go to to find those materials I was making specific to their medical curriculum.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOhSjAZJnKpo8pP7ypvKDsw

Around the same time, during a weekly ultrasound quality assurance session in my emergency department, I realized we were reviewing hundreds of scans each month and the reviewers were the only ones benefiting educationally from the process. Many cases were unique and important for education and patient care.

We began providing more feedback to our emergency sonographers and I decided I could use the same software I was using to develop material for the school of schick_photo_3medicine to highlight the most significant contributions to POCUS in our department every week. I quickly realized I needed a resource to house all these videos, one that anyone in my department could refer to when needed. The most efficient and creative method was to start a blog. I was discussing the project and possible names for the blog with colleagues and Dr. Sarah Medeiros said, “sounds like it’s a bunch of ultrasound stuff”. https://sonostuff.com was born.

I owe a great deal to free and open access to medical education or FOAMed. I was hungry for more POCUS education in residency and the ultrasoundpodcast.com came to the rescue. I became a local expert as a resident and even traveled to Tanzania to teach POCUS.

schick_photo_4I primarily began www.SonoStuff.com to organize and share with my department of emergency medicine and school of medicine, but it grew into a contribution to the growing body of amazing education resources that is FOAMed. I now use it as a resource in my global development work along with the many other FOAMed resources.

The work we all do in FOAMed, including AIUM’s the Scan, is an incredible and necessary resource. I have read the textbooks and attended the lectures, but I would not be where I am without FOAMed. I know all or most of those contributing to FOAMed do it out of love for education and patient care, without reimbursement or time off. Thank you to the many high-quality contributors and I am proud to play a small part in the FOAMed movement.schick_photo_5

Michael Schick, DO, MA, is Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at UC Davis Medical Center and Co-Director of Technology Enabled Active Learning, UC Davis School of Medicine. He is creator of www.sonostuff.com and can be reached on Twitter: ultrasoundstuff.