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.

The National Ultrasound Interest Group (NUSIG)

The National Ultrasound Interest Group (NUSIG) is a student-led organization founded in 2014 to promote ultrasound in undergraduate medical education. You may know us as the force behind planning national level events like SonoSlam. The bulk of NUSIG’s work, however, is sharing education and leadership resources between Ultrasound Interest Groups (USIGs) across the country. Each of the five regional representatives contact medical schools in their areas to exchange ideas, plan co-sponsored events, and see how NUSIG can assist them in evangelizing ultrasound.

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NUSIG provides everything from information on getting equipment and funding, to original educational content. Our podcast on iTunes (quickly closing on the 1,000 download mark) currently features a journal club series. Each episode is hosted by a different school evaluating an ultrasound-related article.

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Our next series is how to plan an Ultrafest, where we interview schools experienced in putting on these events. Our hope is that these USIGs can learn from each other, and other schools might be inspired to start their own UltraFest once it’s been laid out how. In the future, we aim to collect medical student level ultrasound lectures from across the country and publish them for anyone to view. Our vision is to serve as a central repository for the best medical student educational content available. Lastly, our twitter feed regularly features current ultrasound research articles, and retweets outstanding free open access medical education content.

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If you want to learn more about us or get involved, check out our website at www.nationalusig.com, and follow us on twitter and Facebook @NtlUSIG. You can find us on iTunes by searching for “NUSIG podcast.”

Are you a member of the National Ultrasound Interest Group? Did you attend this year’s SonoSlam? If so, share your thoughts and feedback. Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Mat Goebel is in charge of Social Media for the National Ultrasound Interest Group and is a medical student at University of California at San Diego.

Excellence in Education

It is an honor to receive the 2017 Peter H. Arger, MD, Excellence in Medical Student Education Award. I am fortunate to know Dr. Arger and recognize his remarkable achievements in education, accreditation, and leadership in ultrasound. It’s my great privilege to work with different students, whether they are medical students, residents, fellows, sonography students, vascular technology students, or physicians of different medical specialties. I have had many great teachers and mentors toJohn_Pellerito learn from. Some of my favorite teachers like Barry Goldberg, Ken Taylor, Chris Merritt, and Peter Arger have the gift to communicate complex ideas and make them simple and easy to understand. Teachers at that level inspire me to be the best I can be.

I know there are many educators who understand that feeling when a student “gets it.” The anatomy and physiology that they’ve been studying comes to life. When the ultrasound unit is no longer a confusing mess of dials and buttons and becomes a window into the human body. When they realize that in their hands, ultrasound can make a difference in patient care.

I am lucky to work with  a team of physicians and sonographers who enjoy teaching our medical students. We meet to devise new ways to integrate ultrasound into our longitudinal 4-year ultrasound program. One of the techniques we use to engage our students is to integrate games into our classes. Our SONICS (SONographic Integration of Clinical skills and Structure) faculty has enjoyed putting together ultrasound games for our students. We find that gaming increases their excitement and takes advantage of their competitive edge. One of our latest creations, the Hunger Games (J Ultrasound Med 2017; 36:361–365), has proven very successful.

During this class, we ask one member of each student team to fast prior to a scan of the gallbladder and mesenteric arteries. Following a breakfast of a bagel and cream cheese, the students are rescanned to assess for changes in gallbladder size and mesenteric blood flow. All scanning is performed by the students with faculty guidance. One team is deemed the “winner” and awards are given. The session combines both anatomic and physiologic principles to learn about gastrointestinal and vascular function and incorporate Doppler techniques. This activity provides the foundation for a powerful integration of Doppler ultrasound into medical education.

What are some of the ways that you have engaged your students with fun and interactive ultrasound programs? Do you have any stories from your own education to share? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

John S. Pellerito, MD, is professor of Radiology at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine and Vice Chairman of Radiology at Northwell Health.

Ultrasound in the Age of Telehealth, Telemonitoring, Telemedicine, Robots, and Kimonos

Today, there is online access to almost everything; groceries, a video chat with your grandmother across the globe, step-by-step instructions on how to fix your lawnmower, and a virtual doctor to help with pain in your abdomen. The healthcare applications of the internet have exploded in recent years with digital health and telemedicine assuming one of the highest growth areas for start-up entrepreneurs. The expansion of telehealth resources (IT infrastructure/capabilities) has allowed telemedicine to extend to isolated, inaccessible, remote spaces (maybe even your living room). And telehealth has gone beyond just a video chat with incorporation of sensing technologies including cameras, digital stethoscopes, and ultrasound.
Kat and Scott

Ultrasound imaging in austere locations is not just about access to an ultrasound system; it requires both the ultrasound operator, and the interpreter, to have specific knowledge, competency, and ultimately accountability about the quality of the examination, and the diagnosis it helps to provide. Our NASA-sponsored research team has shown that novice ultrasound operators can acquire diagnostic quality ultrasound images after a short training period with remote tele-ultrasound guidance in a space medicine environment. The astronaut operators were able to perform terrestrial standard abdominal, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal ultrasound examinations with modest remote guidance oversight; zero gravity specific exams of the eyes, spine, and sinus were also completed. Importantly, the astronaut crewmembers quickly became more autonomous during their 6-month mission in space and were able to self-direct image acquisition.

But a major challenge with tele-ultrasound is operator training. William R. Buras, Sr, Director, Life Sciences at Tietronix Software Inc, and his team are making an augmented reality user interface for ultrasound scanning using a wearable heads-up display with imbedded guidance to improve ultrasound competency. This innovative Houston team is being funded by a NASA grant.

Unfortunately, when it gets to real-world practicality, neither the ultrasound machine nor the examination is intuitive. A team in Canada led by Dr Andy Kirkpatrick are working on a sustainable ultrasound solution using both remote ultrasound system operation and telemonitoring. They investigated the ability of non-trained firefighters to perform ultrasound in Edmonton being guided from Calgary. “We found that by using just-in-time–training with motivated firefighters, the remote examiner guiding the firefighters was 97% correct in determining the presence of a simulated hemo-peritoneum. Ironically, while this trial design also attempted to examine the utility of remote ultrasound knobology control, the firefighters were so good at the task that the remote knobology control became less of a relevant problem” said Dr Kirkpatrick.

To reduce the challenges of novice ultrasound operators, at team in France, led by Dr Phillipe Arbelle, linked a robot-coupled ultrasound device with a remote operator. The distant clinician can move the ultrasound probe with a joystick to acquire the ultrasound images. His concept has been implemented in a French ultrasound device, SonoScanner, that the European Space Agency will begin investigating on the International Space Station.

Similar work in robotic ultrasound is being done in Australia, where a team is building a robotic ultrasound machine that can perform abdominal ultrasound.

Have you seen the guy in a kimono buying a car? Online resourcing is indeed pants-optional. But if you plan on telemonitoring be suitably dressed.

Alien

What other areas have come a long way when it comes to ultrasound? What areas are poised to be next? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Kathleen M Rosendahl-Garcia, BS, RDMS, RVT, RDCS, is a NASA contractor working for KBRWyle and is a senior scientist and clinical sonographer in the Space Medicine division working under the Human Health and Performance Contract. Scott Dulchavsky, MD, PhD, is the Roy D. McClure Chairman of Surgery and Surgeon-in-Chief at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, and Professor of Surgery, Molecular Biology and Genetics at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. He is also a principal investigator for NASA and heads a project teaching astronauts how to use medical ultrasound in space.

A Future Career Path for the MSK Sonographer

The sonographic community has the opportunity to take advantage of recent orthopedic surgeons’ interest in diagnostic ultrasound. Although much of the interest was prompted by the usefulness of guided injections, sonographers need to fully appreciate and understand the value of the information derived from an ultrasound study, which will ultimately lead the surgeon to better surgical decisions and better patient outcomes. Once you are a part of the orthopedic diagnostic team, you will be able to function as a specialist Physician Assistant member, adding a new dimension to the orthopedic practice and demonstrating the incredible value of diagnostic soft tissue imaging.

I am a Board-Certified Orthopedic Surgeon, with subspecialty in shoulder orthopedics including arthroscopy and open surgery. I incorporated diagnostic shoulder/MSK ultrasound as part of my office practice 20 years ago especially for evaluation of patients presenting with protracted shoulder pain (in addition to the traditional history and physical exam, and occasional MRI).

I have valued diagnostic shoulder imaging in my practice, and determined that all Orthopedic Surgeons should be using ultrasound imaging as part of their usual diagnostic evaluation of patients (especially patients presenting with protracted painful shoulder problems affecting function). In addition, an ultrasound exam with normal findings may be more important than an ultrasound exam that finds some pathology.

I have concluded that the real-time ultrasound examination with comparison to the contralateral side available to the orthopedic surgeon, in most cases, is more valuable than the information obtained from the MRI (especially regarding soft tissue pathology, present or absent).

For example, compare the MRI detail of the supraspinatus with the ultrasound motion clip of the supraspinatus moving under the acromion (see the still MR image below and, at bottom of page, the 1st video, which is the active ultrasound clip of the supraspinatus). MRI is accomplished with arms immobilized at one’s side, and does not benefit from the study being compared to the contralateral side. However, it produces a nice clear image. The ultrasound image in long axis can be a still image or a motion clip viewing the supraspinatus or infraspinatus moving under the acromion and the reaction causing impingement syndrome, spurs along the anterior lateral border of the acromion, dynamic sub acromial bursitis, or a rotator cuff tear, which may be attritional and similarly present on viewing the asymptomatic shoulder.

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The Math

The following statistics help to identify the future vital need for the sonographer to become part of the team working with the surgeon in an orthopedic office practice (Orthopaedic Surgeon Quick Facts, www.aaos.org; 10 Interesting Statistics and Facts About Orthopedic Practice, www.beckersspine.com; Am J Orthop 2016;45(2):66-67; 20 Things to Know About Orthopedics, www.beckershospitalreview.com).

There are approximately 28,000 (2012) orthopedic surgeons in the US, 75% of whom are in private practice, and many are in group practices of 2 or more. The general orthopedic surgeon sees an average of 70-90 patients per week, of which an estimated 12% or more have shoulder problems. This equates to 10 orthopedic shoulder evaluations per week for 1 solo general orthopedic practice, and 20 for a 2-man group (in the same office). Ten to 20 patients (minimum) per week would then benefit from ultrasound imaging information, assisting the surgeon in making a surgical decision.

The following image identifies how important the cross axis image is, as well as describes the degree of rotator cuff injury and approximates the relative number of rotator cuff muscle tendon units thathave been rendered dysfunctional.

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Left, Close to the infraspinatus/supraspinatus interval and insertion site, many fibers are in harm’s way for tendon/fibril tearing. Center, The area for careful X-axis grid examination, looking for possible partial undersurface tearing, fibers losing their connection/attachment to the footplate. Right, Example of an X-axis grid examination of this full thickness tendon tear, which should be accompanied by an x-axis measurement of the width/base of the triangular tear. Real time examination can help to identify the quality of the tissue, which may require repair. Usually, orthopedic surgeons pay more attention to the MRI reading and the coronal views (ultrasound long axis view). (See the 2nd video clip below for real-time imaging of the X-axis rotator cuff tear.) The X-axis view/measurement is the more important image. The wider the tear, the more tendon fibrils are affected and the more dysfunction to the rotator cuff area involved.

This need for diagnostic shoulder ultrasound information could be sufficient and important enough to support an entire career for an MSK sonographer. All the other valuable areas of MSK expertise that come with the MSK sonographer would be an extra bonus to the orthopedic office practice: helping with other ultrasound examinations, diagnosis, and surgical decisions.

Video clip 3 below is an MSK ultrasound examination for CTS identifying median nerve mobility or restriction within the tissue, questioning the presence of scar tissue restricting motion.

 

How have you used ultrasound in orthopedic surgery? What other areas of ultrasound are on the brink of emerging in a new field? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Alan Solomon, MD, is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Honorary Staff at the Metro West Medical Center, Natick/Framingham, MA.

 

Sonographer Stretches for an ‘A’ Game

For our first blog we introduced the reality that there is an epidemic amount of sonographer pain and injury. Almost 90% of sonographers work and live daily with that pain and injury as a result of doing our jobs. That is an epidemic and sinful statistic. As fellow sonographers, we should be incensed that more is not being done to quell the enormous pain and injury that we suffer from.

Coach Rozy and I have the solution. In our first blog with the AIUM, we detailed and gave examples of lower body stretches and exercises that sonographers should do. The folks at the AIUM relayed that our post was very popular among sonographers. Some of the feedback that we received was that many that read our blog thought it was silly that we would suggest doing lower body work for sonographers that predominately suffer from upper body issues (neck, back, shoulders, etc…).

In our 2nd blog we explained why lower body stretches and exercises are also crucial to good sonographer health and pain-free imaging. My favorite story that Coach Rozy tells is about his time in the National Football League. A prominent quarterback in the league at the time was having pain in his shoulders, and main throwing arm. He couldn’t follow through properly on his pass mechanics due to the pain in his throwing shoulder. Not good, if you are a quarterback in the NFL and you can’t pass properly.

Rozy immediately zoned in and started working the shoulder, with little positive result. A few days later Rozy noticed that this quarterback was walking into the locker room with a limp. He hit him up and was told that he had taken a hard hit on his hip and that it had caused him hip pain. Immediately Rozy started working on the quarterback’s hip. A few days later, the hip was better. At this time the shoulder pain also stopped, and life was good. The problem wasn’t the shoulder. The problem was the hip. The hip injury translated into the shoulder. Fix the hip, fix the shoulder. That’s why when you look at sonographer pain and injury, you must look at the body as a whole, not just the area of pain and injury.

For our 3rd blog, we want to share why it is absolutely crucial that your work as a sonographer must be done at the very highest level on each and every patient that you work on. An article entitled, “Making a Difference as a Sonographer, 100% Every Person, Every Time” details my own personal battle with my wife’s diagnosis of breast cancer. As you will read, a breast ultrasound is the only test that caught my wife’s cancer. The cancer was caught early, which made her course miraculous, given such a diagnosis. Amazing things happened in Yankton, SD, the day that my wife had her ultrasound study that caught ‘something’. Enough ‘something’ that a biopsy was done, the cancer was found early, and the course for my wife was incredible.  As sonographers it is CRUCIAL that we be on our ‘A’ game for every person that we work on.

The following are a few simple, quick, easy stretches that can be easily done at work or home. Working the body as a whole is important.

Lying thoracic spine rotation

Start by lying on the ground on your side (either side). With your arms extended straight out at chest level pull your knees pulled up to your chest. The hips and knees should both be at 90 degrees. Work to have your ankles at 90°. You can use a mat, and for added comfort and support use a pillow.

To begin, keep the knees together (place a rolled-up towel or small ball between the knees if you need more support), move your top arm over your body and toward the floor on the opposite side. The objective is to get the arm and s
houlder blade touching the ground, not just the hand.

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All images courtesy of Doug Wuebben.

The goal is to do 2 sets of 8 reps on each side. Tip: You want the movement to come through the thoracic spine — not just the shoulder area.

Kneeling thoracic spine rotation

After completing the lying thoracic spine rotation, progress to the kneeling thoracic spine rotation exercise. This is a more progressive move and requires enhanced control over your posture, movement, and stability.

Begin in a 6-point (some say 4-point) position, on your hands and knees. Take one hand and put it on the base of the skull behind your head. It’s important to keep weight evenly distributed between the legs and your other arm.  Keep the bent arm locked in position. The elbow stays pointed toward the ground. Rotate your torso with motion going through the spine, ending so that the bent elbow is pointed up.  The movement should come through the back/spine — and not just the shoulder! Take the movement through as large a range of motion as possible.  The benefit comes from movement from the thoracic spine. Don’t use your shoulders or hips.

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Do 2 sets of 8 reps on each side.

Psoas lunge

Most people consider proper lunge technique to include pushing the hips forward to stretch what they feel are the hip flexors and the psoas. The iliacus crossing the hip is what is stretched in the traditional lunge, but the psoas also crosses the hip and all lumbar joints.

The best way to stretch the psoas occurs when it is isolated with a lunge that includes lateral bending of the spine and twisting and extension motions. This is a great warm-up stretch before running or doing a lower body routine. Stretch and hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat several times, both directions.

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Farmer’s walk

Another simple yet effective routine is what we call the farmer’s walk exercise. Pick one or two dumbbells and hold them by your sides. Then walk around your training area. Start by walking 25 yards or you can also time yourself, say for 30 seconds, to begin with.

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If you are a beginner, perform the farmer’s walk by carrying any object that has some weight to it. Increase the weight as you progress. The farmer’s walk is a simple yet effective leg-strengthening exercise that works your calves, quadriceps, and hamstrings. The core muscles that help support your spine also benefit. It also creates intra-abdominal pressure to prevent your spine from collapsing.

To vary this routine, hold the weights overhead, use only one weight, or hold one weight overhead and one at your side.

What stretches do you do? How do you improve your posture? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

 Doug Wuebben BA, AS, RDCS (Adult and Peds), FASE, is a registered echocardiographer and also a consultant, international presenter, and author of e-books in the areas of ergonomics, exercise and pain, and injury correction for sonographers. He has also been published on the topics of telemedicine and achieving lab accreditation.

Mark Roozen, M.Ed, CSCS,*D, NSCA-CPT, FNSCA, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, a certified personal trainer, and a fellow of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

Wuebben and Roozen are co-founders of Live Pain Free — The Right Moves. They can be contacted at livepainfree4u@gmail.com.

 

Why I Love Credentials

My name is Mike. I am many things, including a veteran, a business man, a coach, and a sonographer. And while the “things” I am change over time, one thing has remained the same: I am a student! This is thompsonmost evidenced by the 8 professional credentials I currently hold.

I have found that after being in the field of ultrasound for more than 2 decades, credentialing and continuing education can distinguish the enthusiastic sonographer from the merely competent one. With the introduction of more focused credentials such as musculoskeletal, breast, pediatric, phlebology, and advanced cardiac subspecialties, sonographers can now stand out from the crowd in terms of awareness and competency while at the same time being on the cutting-edge of the latest techniques and literature.

Acquiring a new credential, or even just studying for the registry examination, requires you to learn valuable new knowledge that may impact the way you treat and diagnose patients. For example, while I was preparing for the RPhS registry, multiple sources recommended a pneumatic compression device to augment venous flow while a patient is standing as an alternative to the patient performing the Valsalva maneuver in order to induce and record venous reflux. For me, this method has helped me better evaluate for this condition with less strain on the patient while eliminating communication barriers that may exist. If I hadn’t been preparing for that exam, I probably would never have learned this technique.

While some credentials are necessary for certain jobs, multiple credentials prove to existing and future employers that you take your profession seriously and you don’t settle for the minimum standard. I am not saying you need to get multiple credentials. If your professional interest does not reach beyond one credential, that is fine, but few ultrasound labs today only perform only one specialty. Echocardiography labs and vascular labs are growing together as cardiovascular labs, and many departments are requiring a more comprehensive knowledge in ultrasound. Credentialing yourself to the highest degree may get you the new job you pursue or secure the one you have. While increased pay is always a motive, sometimes the satisfaction of being able to set yourself apart from others in the field can be just as rewarding.

Some sonographers have the position that if the credential doesn’t come with a pay raise, it’s not worth it. With reimbursement cuts and higher credentialing standards being proposed by private and government payors, my opinion is that keeping your job is a pay raise.

Why do you hold the credentials you have? What are your go-to resources? What book would you like to see written? Share your thoughts and ideas here and on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Mike Thompson, MPH, RDMS, RDCS, RVT, RPhS, RVS, RCS, RCCS, is Owner of Diagnostic Resources in Perry, Georgia.