Sonography and the Seeds of Education in Underserved Rural Clinics

How many of us began our sonography journey thinking about the number of callbacks that we would log per shift, the number of patients that we would scan in an 8-hour day, or, even worse, the number of career-ending ailments that we would amass? Zero; we didn’t. tammySterns_2017

We saw ultrasound as a way to contribute to something bigger than ourselves.

The complex, yet simplistic, science of sound drew us to the field. Looking at the screen and seeing the images come to life was fascinating, and being the first to see presenting pathology while shedding light on the diagnosis mesmerized us. The thought that even after 20 or 30 years in the profession we would encounter images of structures that we’d never seen before was enticing, and the opportunity to be a life-long leaner was thrilling.

Patient interaction and our role in their medical experience appealed to us. Not too much, not too little, but just the right amount of patient care time that allowed us to interact with them and leave a positive imprint on their journey. We imagined we would sit by their bedsides, walk them casually back to the exam rooms, and listen as they shared.

Our patients would come first.

Instead, too often, we found ourselves in the middle of a never-ending battle between cost-effectiveness and patient satisfaction reports. We logged more hours of callbacks than we ever thought possible, sometimes having difficulty even finding the correct key to open the ultrasound office door. We strived to create the profession that we had imagined within the confines of the variables that we’d been given. We did the best that we could, often to the detriment of our own bodies.

And, somewhere along the way, we forgot the wonder of our profession.

About 10 years ago, I had the opportunity to participate in my first overseas medical trip. A group of physicians and a few sonographers, with portable machines strapped in backpacks, were intent on sharing sonography with some of our peers an ocean away. It was during this trip that I saw the purest form of ultrasound come to life. We had one of the simplest of machines and the most basic of lectures and yet they came from miles to learn. The patients sat all day in the heat waiting for the opportunity to have an ultrasound scan. I witnessed ultrasound identifying and explaining pain that had existed for years. I saw tears of relief, joy, and despair as people received answers that changed their lives.

A few years later, I was able to return to the same place. I fully expected to find that they had not utilized our lessons on sonography to their fullest. Instead, our previous pupils greeted us with dog-eared textbooks, mastered skills, and the desire to know more! The seeds of education that we had planted had flourished as they realized the potential ultrasound held for their rural clinics. It offered the ability to quickly investigate and diagnose and you could see the wonder of ultrasound that we had once experienced reflected in their eyes.

Seven years ago, my family and I had the opportunity to move to a developing country. Living in the second-poorest country in the western hemisphere with limited medical availability, I now see every day the wonder of our profession come to life. All the benefits of ultrasound that we learned as students, that are often taken for granted, are the benefits that allow lives to be changed every day.

Portability – I can scan in a makeshift clinic, under a tree in a field, or in someone’s handmade shelter while they lay on the floor.

Inexpensive – Portable machines are relatively inexpensive and diagnostically sound, making them perfect for short-term trips or as gifts to native physicians.

Quick – Within minutes, we can scan and find answers to problems that have hindered the livelihood of those who are sick and in pain. One of my first patients was an OB patient who had been in labor for several days without any progress. A quick scan revealed placenta previa.

Relatively Safe – Without the worry of radiation and chemicals, ultrasound, when utilized by those who are qualified, provides a safe method of imaging.

True, my exam room isn’t exactly ergonomically correct and there are times that chickens and roosters run underfoot. I’ve had to prop the machine on a rock and scan in the brightest sun of the day. But I’ve also witnessed a mother’s face when she sees her baby for the very first time without me having to operate under the time constraints of efficiency. I’ve held a father’s hand as he realized that the pain he’s had for years isn’t the cancer he so greatly feared but a simple fix. I’ve scanned at the bedside of a daughter who lay dying without any medical options, and I fall more and more in love with our profession every single day.

Experience the wonder of ultrasound again.

If given the opportunity, I encourage you to participate in a medically related trip or volunteer opportunity. You will see firsthand how our profession and our images impact the world one life and one scan at a time. You don’t have to move permanently as we did to a developing country. Opportunities also abound in your local community from volunteering your time as a clinical instructor to scanning for local centers. Expand your horizons and allow yourself to experience the wonder of ultrasound again.

 

How have you seen ultrasound incorporated into medical care in other nations? Do you have an ultrasound story to tell? Comment below, or, AIUM members, continue the conversation on Connect, the AIUM’s online community.

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Tammy Stearns, MS, RT(R), RDMS, RVT, FSDMS, is Director of Women’s Ministry and Sonographer for Project H.O.P.E. in Managua, Nicaragua. She is also the President of the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography and an adjunct professor of Diagnostic Medical Sonography at Adventist University in Orlando, Florida, and a sonographer consultant for Heartbeat International.  She is also the author of “Know Hope” and “Living Worthy”.

The Research Sonographer

Research sonography is not a common term when talking with fellow sonographers. There is no specialty exam or formal training involved. I would like to say research fell into my lap, but I was determined to learn as much as possible about ultrasound research in my earliest days. As a student at Thomas Jefferson University, I spent a lot of time hanging around the Research Institute. During my first job at UCSD, I started volunteering with the contrast ultrasound research team. I volunteered my lunch breaks and came in early before my shift at 7 am.  An opportunity opened to work on 2 simultaneous CEUS clinical trials as a research coordinator/sonographer. Looking back, I had no idea what I was doing but I knew I was up for the challenge.IMG_1175

Together with help from my mentors, we created a research sonography position. I asked A LOT of questions. I learned how to write research protocols and submit for IRB (Institutional Review Board) review. The clinical trial monitors were gracious enough to teach me source documentation and the regulatory aspect. When the clinical trials ended, I spent nearly 10 years at Philips learning the medical device side of ultrasound. Eventually, I followed my passion and went back to clinical research when an opportunity opened at the FDA as a contractor; and now I am pursuing my master’s in clinical research management-Regulatory Science. Opportunities are always created if you follow the instincts that drive you.

The first hurdle is funding a research position. Whether funded by a clinical trial or applying for grant money, the process can be laborious. Sometimes a lapse between awards can occur but, in general, the budget is stretched so there is no loss in coverage. Every year, the project or position can be up for financial renewal. Planning for the next financial award is always on the horizon. Therefore, research sonography jobs usually hire for short-term employment, unless a Radiologist you are working with has grant money for a project. I recognize this path is not a stable one, not nearly as long-term as a departmental position would be.

Some crave the stability of 10–20 years ahead with one employer. I think the Research Sonographer is one that likes to accept challenges; is interested in science, research, and development; and has a yearning to think outside the clinical box and challenge the status quo in a way clinical sonography does not present itself. But this is not for everyone.

There are differences in clinical and research ultrasound. The investigators’ research protocol is the imaging parameters that will be followed, not The Standards, CPT codes, or departmental protocol. I ascertain this as a challenge; once you have the transducer and start driving, it is difficult to not diagnose and document images in an orderly fashion. Instead, we are examining a hypothesis and proving specific aims. There is a shift in cognitive thinking that needs to occur. Setting up a controlled environment with repetitive imaging to prove a hypothesis is imperative. It is most important to re-create the same controlled imaging environment on all subjects and then analyze the data off-line.

How does one become a research sonographer? Situations arise that are different in every corner of the country. Align with a research-based physician, coordinator, or mentor, at a university hospital or outpatient center that performs research. Start on a small project, volunteering your time and evaluate the differences. You may find research is not at all interesting for your personality type. Search for clinical trials in need of a sonographer, usually posted on on-line ultrasound job boards. A good website to search for on-going or upcoming trials is http://www.clinicaltrials.gov. Search for clinical trials that involve sonography, ie, fertility, where the exam times are usually early morning before the volunteers go to work. Remember research sonography is not the same as performing an entire pelvic exam. The sponsor will only want images on what the protocol states, so exam times and ergonomics are reduced. You might be measuring the bladder volume or the volume of an ovary, in total. Align with a mentor that will help you carve out your path, follow your instincts, and seek out opportunities that will lead in your direction.


Are you a research sonographer? Share your experience. Comment below, or, AIUM members, continue the conversation on Connect, the AIUM’s online community.

Karen Alton, BS, RDMS, RVT, is a graduate student at Arizona State University, an owner of Karen Alton Consulting, LLC, and is an Ultrasound Imaging Research contractor at the US Food and Drug Administration.

Helping Correct Anterior Pelvic Tilt to Eliminate Hip and Low Back Strain

If you’re having problems with tightness in the hip area and lower back, it might not just be tight muscles, but how your hips are positioned. Here, we show you a few movements to help fix ANTERIOR PELVIC TILT.

Before we get rolling, let’s explain what anterior pelvic tilt is.

It’s when your pelvis ends up tilting forward (or anterior; see image below).

Two images of a skeleton shown from the side. The 1st is shown with good posture and the 2nd shows bad posture with anterior pelvic tilt.

When this happens, it ends up changing the position of your pelvis, hip, and lower back. It also changes the location of your head position, the curve of the spine, and can even lead to knee and ankle problems. This change in the position can cause you to end up having more stress on your hip, back, and knee, which increases the risk of injury and pain.

3 Stretches to Help LIVE PAIN-FREE and Correct Anterior Pelvic Tilt

#1 – 90/90 Hip Flexor Stretch

On a mat, kneel down with the front leg up, with the knee at 90 degrees, the back leg is on the ground, but also bent at 90 degrees. Make sure to tighten up the abdominal area. Then, move your hips forward, maintaining shoulders back. You are looking for a stretch in front of the hip.

You will feel the stretch in the front of your hip and the thigh. You are looking for a light stretch. You are not trying to rip the muscle apart. Hold that for about 20 to 30 seconds, twice on each side: first the right leg, then the left. Alternating back and forth for the two sets.

Image demonstrating the 90/90 Hip Flexor Stretch. A man is shown with his left leg kneeling with the knee at a 90-degree angle and the right leg up, as if he were sitting on a chair, with the knee at 90 degrees.

#2 – Side Lying Quad Stretch

Lying on your side, reach back and grab the foot of the top leg with the same side’s arm as the leg you are bending. As you grab the foot, bring the heel towards the butt. The key here is not to just pull the heel to the butt but bring the thigh back a little bit in order to intensify the stretch in the front of the thigh and the front of the hip. Think – PULL THE HEEL AWAY FROM THE BUTT 6–8 INCHES.

You are looking at holding the light stretch for 20 seconds and you will do it twice on each side, alternating: Right Leg, then roll to other side and do Left Leg. Repeat.

Image demonstrating the Side Lying Quad Stretch. A man is shown lying on a mat on his left side. His left arm is bent at an angle to support his head and his left leg is straight. His right leg is bent at the knee and he is holding his right foot with his right hand.

#3 – Deep Squat Stretch

Stand up tall with a wider stance then shoulder width. From that position, squat down with hips below the knees. In the bottom position, place the elbows between the knees and then push the knees out with the elbows. You are looking for a stretch in the inner thigh and hips.

This position and pressure will end up changing the position in the lower back and in the pelvis from an anterior tilt to a posterior tilt. Perform this stretch twice with a 20- to 30-second hold for each.



What stretches do you do? How do you improve your posture? Comment below, or, AIUM members, continue the conversation on Connect, the AIUM’s online community.

Mark “Coach Rozy” Roozen, MEd, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, TSAC-F, FNSCA, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, a certified personal trainer, and a fellow of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

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.

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

Training and Integrating Sonographers via Dedicated Preceptors

Hiring new staff members is risky business. Despite all the resources invested in identifying and evaluating qualified candidates, there’s no guarantee they’ll be a good long-term fit for the department. As new staff members begin to settle into a new job, there are a variety of reasons why they might ultimately leave the position. Many of these reasons can be traced back to deficiencies in orientation and training programs. With this in mind, it is of the utmost importance to invest appropriately in the onboarding process. A successful onboarding and training program provides benefits to the candidate and the organization.IMG_2125

My experience with these processes comes primarily from my current position as the Ultrasound Educator at St. David’s North Austin Medical Center in Austin, Texas. A huge portion of our sonographers are hired and contracted to maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) clinics around the Austin area; working for Austin Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Expectations for these sonographers are high. They perform all ultrasound examinations common to maternal-fetal medicine practice, including fetal echocardiography and diagnostic 3D/4D techniques. The scarcity of qualified candidates means that we often hire candidates from out of state, and integration to the department and community are among our primary concerns; having a structured training program helps with that.

New employees spend their first 2 days on the job attending facility orientation. Their third day of work is their first day in the MFM department. They’ll meet with leaders and physicians, and tour all relevant areas. In addition, I spend some time with them reviewing the training process and setting expectations. At this time, we pair them with a Sonographer Preceptor. The preceptor/trainee assignment is, of course, subject to change, but we try to limit this as part of the goal is to provide some stability and consistency during the training period.

The standard training period is 3 months in duration, although, we have extended training in some cases up to 6 months. This period may look different for various candidates based on their prior experience level. However, there are several characteristics that remain fixed:

1. One-on-one work with a preceptor

The Sonographer Preceptor is expected to directly observe while offering real-time feedback, every part of the trainees workday. This level of intensity may only be reduced after consultation with the Ultrasound Educator.

2. Weekly preceptor feedback report

This weekly report is filled out by the Preceptor and reviewed with the trainee. They review things that are working well and also plan which tasks need additional focus for the following week.

3. Image review with the Ultrasound Educator

On a weekly or biweekly basis, the trainee will meet with the Ultrasound Educator to review the Preceptor feedback report and review a selection of examinations from the prior week.

4. Didactic and written material for review

Each candidate is supplied with protocols, American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) guidelines, review articles, and some pre-recorded lectures that cover essential quality standards and approaches for the department.

This high-touch training period helps to ensure that we have a strong understanding of the progress being achieved and can quickly adjust if we do not see steady growth.

Many people will recognize that it takes years to develop strong, comprehensive skills, in the performance of MFM ultrasound examinations. So what can we expect to accomplish in only 3 to 6 months? Upon completion of the training period, the sonographer should be able to:

  1. Complete normal fetal anatomic surveys, fetal echocardiograms, and other examinations in non-obese patients, demonstrating an understanding of proper technique, measurements, and optimization.
  2. Exercise professional discernment by getting help when their own efforts do not produce the answers or quality they expect.

These two goals may initially appear to be overly simplistic, but they work together beautifully in the transition out of the training period and into independent performance. Completion of normal (relatively easy) examinations proves that they understand the target. They understand what normal looks like and the essential techniques involved. The second point is key as it gives department leadership the confidence to allow them to work independently, because we know that they understand what good enough is, and we know that they have the resources they need in order to help them when they cannot meet expectations on their own. This is an important skill that never expires. This is relevant for sonographers, physicians, and other health care practitioners throughout their careers. Knowing when you’ve hit your limit and when to seek additional counsel is key to providing the best care to our patients (regardless of one’s particular level of expertise).

These two benchmarks, along with ongoing quality assurance efforts, help give us confidence in our team even as they continue to grow their individual skills and proficiencies over the coming years.

A note on Preceptor selection

Key to the success of this process is the selection of Sonographer Preceptors. These team members fill two distinct (individually important) roles: technical trainer and social integrator. With that in mind, selection of the individuals who fill this role is very important. Social characteristics we look for are warmth, kindness, extraversion, and the tendency to be inclusive. Technical expertise is evaluated based on history, quality assurance, physician feedback, and ability to evaluate and explain abnormal cases.

Full-time training in a one-on-one environment for 3 months or more at a time can be emotionally and mentally exhausting (even if rewarding). With this in mind, we try to maintain several Preceptors on our team so that these sonographers are able to work independently for extended periods between training new employees.

The social and integrative aspects of our Preceptor Program are not formally defined, yet the benefits are clearly evident. We see that our new employees make strong connections with their preceptors and other team members, frequently having lunch together and engaging in other extracurricular activities during time off.

It is important to point out that preceptors should typically be individual team members—not leads, supervisors, or managers. These formal leaders have other administrative duties that will inevitably get in the way of the one-on-one, full-time training involved in a preceptorship. Of course, leads, supervisors, and educators, may set aside time for some training of new hires, and this is certainly beneficial. For example, in our departments, I frequently set aside time to work with new hires or existing employees on specific skills such as 3D/4D, fetal echocardiography, or abnormal cases. Sonographers enjoy these sessions and benefit from them, but that does not replace the benefit of having a dedicated preceptor.

People don’t stay in jobs where they feel disconnected from the culture and community. This training program, with assigned preceptors, helps to meet the human need for connection in addition to building and verifying technical skills that are necessary for success.

For additional reading:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbeshumanresourcescouncil/2017/09/21/seven-ways-to-integrate-new-hires-and-make-them-feel-welcome-from-the-first-day/#1282eff640f6
https://www.thebalancecareers.com/employee-orientation-keeping-new-employees-on-board-1919035
https://trainingindustry.com/blog/performance-management/dont-ignore-training-when-onboarding-new-employees/

Does your practice have a mentor program for sonographers? Comment below, or, AIUM members, continue the conversation on Connect, the AIUM’s online community.

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Will Lindsley, RDMS (FE, OBGYN, AB), RVT, is an Ultrasound Educator in Maternal-Fetal Medicine and Fetal Echocardiography in Austin, TX.

Evidence-Based Sonology: Changing the Practice of POCUS

Let’s say you are working in a busy emergency department. You get a call that a patient is being brought in by ambulance in cardiac arrest. You quickly assemble your team, assign roles, and discuss the plan—just in time for the patient to arrive. A paramedic performs one-arm compressions on an elderly man, pale yellow–his mouth stented open with a laryngeal mask airway. Your swarm of providers descends upon the patient, performing their jobs simultaneously in perfect concert. Airway, ventilations, rhythm checks, epinephrine: everything is running smoothly, but the patient is in pulseless electrical activity. During a rhythm check, someone looks at the heart with ultrasound. You glance at the screen and see a blurry subcostal cardiac view. You can barely make out the pericardium, but you see a weak contraction of the ventricles; there’s still no pulse. Compressions are quickly resumed. You consider all of the information – what are the chances this patient will survive? Should we keep going? Should I place a transesophageal probe? Wait, do I even have one of those?! Is ultrasound enough evidence to determine if further efforts are futile? Amidst your thoughts you hear a loud and eager call out: “I got a pulse!”. The team buzzes again – blood pressure, electrocardiogram, labs, vasopressors, cooling. You wonder, “Why did I even do that ultrasound? Is there any evidence it helps?”.

The difficulty encountered in this scenario is one that occurs countless times across the world’s hospitals each day. Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) has exploded off the shelves over the past decade. It has been borrowed from the hands of sonographers and cardiologists and made available to anyone who can afford a machine (training course optional). Overall, this has been a remarkably positive movement. Safer procedures, faster diagnoses, and sometimes a replacement for more potentially harmful imaging modalities. However, it is not without dangers. Those who use it aren’t always looking for the evidence for POCUS, as if it is somehow outside of the requirement for evidence. Others might not use this modality when it is indicated, ignoring the evidence that supports the use of POCUS. Both practices are unsafe. This is a big problem…but it’s one we can fix with the concept of evidence-based sonology.

Practicing based on the best available evidence has been a cornerstone of medicine since its advent; however, only more recently has it seen a visible resurgence. Now that it is in vogue there are physicians who are evidence-based medicine (EBM) specialists, there are EBM blogs and EBM courses. We teach our learners EBM principles and practices. So why has POCUS almost eluded this trend? Why would the evidence for POCUS not be examined with the same perspicacity as resuscitative endovascular balloon occlusion of the aorta (REBOA) in the emergency department, for example? I have some theories. In the early days, POCUS was practiced by a few champions with a dream who understood how POCUS could revolutionize practice. However, ultrasound equipment was not yet widely available. This limited initial studies to case reports and case series on new uses, touting primarily theoretical benefits to patients. As anyone who has used ultrasound knows, this tool holds a powerful allure by allowing its user to magically look into the body and directly visualize physiology and pathology. It is easy to imagine that after a while you build up a confidence; when you see something it must really be there. In a sense, the rapid outbreak of ultrasound use and the ever-expanding list of applications outran the available evidence basis.

A review of a subset of ultrasound-related abstracts showed that there is now increasing research, although most of it would be classified as quasi-experimental, which may not be enough to inform practice.1 But the times, they are a’ changin’. Now ultrasound is ubiquitous, at least at most academic centers, in emergency departments, ICUs, and other places that care for the acutely ill. Therefore, the body of literature is growing, and now we just have to pay attention to it. Enter evidence-based sonology (EBS).

Your first question is probably – sonology? What’s that? Did he just misspell sonography? No. Sonology is a term that implies an expertise in the entire spectrum of POCUS. Not only the acquisition (the “-graphy”) of the images, but additionally the indications for performing it, the interpretation, and the subsequent appropriate medical decision making.2 This is important because the evidence for this modality could fall apart at any one of these levels, so practitioners must be attuned to the hurdles of each step. Your second question probably is, isn’t this just EBM? Of course! But it is something that we could improve, and therefore we need to rebrand this practice to continue teaching it as a concept to anyone that uses POCUS. There are several reasons why this is important. As POCUS becomes more integrated into medical practice, it is important that we are all on the same page. Research helps us understand the benefits and limits of this tool for each application. It helps us to know the best time to use the tool, how accurate it is when we use it, how it affects patients when we use it, and potential harms associated with it.EBS Graphic

So where do we go from here? There are 3 main ways you can practice EBS:

  1. Know the evidence
  2. Model the evidence
  3. Make the evidence (AKA perform research)

As far as knowing the evidence, this is nothing new for anyone practicing in a medical field. You know how to get a hold of journals. These days it’s easier than ever. You can even use social media, podcasts, and blogs to further distill the information for you. Just make sure you read the original evidence yourself and develop your own decisions about how it will change your practice. Secondly, you have to actually implement what you learn. Obviously, not all research articles are practice-changing, but many will at least add something to your understanding of POCUS in clinical practice. For example, in the aforementioned case of cardiac arrest, recent literature could have informed many steps of using POCUS. Cardiac activity on ultrasound has an odds ratio of 3.6 for survival to admission.3 Patient’s in PEA with cardiac activity on POCUS might benefit from continuous adrenergics instead of standard ACLS.4 Furthermore, an understanding that there is the risk of misdiagnosis of cardiac standstill and the risk of delaying chest compressions, might make you pay closer attention to these details during use of POCUS.5,6 Practicing with this evidence is not only the safest practice, but for those at teaching institutions, it can help create a newer generation of EBS followers. Lastly, make the evidence. Do the research. If you have a question, go find the answer. Collaboration is easier now that ultrasound is more widespread, as is evidenced by more multi-center trials.7-9 Talk about research ideas at national meetings and consider research groups for important questions.

There is now a greater evidence basis for POCUS than ever before. No longer are we restricted to a few case reports and our own intuition. We have randomized controlled trials; we have meta-analyses; we have real patient-centered outcomes. Know the evidence, model the evidence, and make the evidence. These are simple practices that we need to support for the sake of our patients. Now it’s up to you. Will you start practicing EBS? Think of creative ways to begin promoting this concept today.

References:

  1. Prats MI, Bahner DP, Panchal AR, et al. Documenting the growth of ultrasound research in emergency medicine through a bibliometric analysis of accepted academic conference abstracts. [published online ahead of print April 15, 2018]. J Ultrasound Med. doi.org/10.1002/jum.14634.
  2. Bahner DP, Hughes D, Royall NA. I-AIM: a novel model for teaching and performing focused sonography. J Ultrasound Med. 2012; 31:295–300.
  3. Gaspari R, Weekes A, Adhikari S, et al. Emergency department point-of-care ultrasound in out-of-hospital and in-ED cardiac arrest. Resuscitation. 2016; 109:33–39.
  4. Gaspari R, Weekes A, Adhikari S, et al. A retrospective study of pulseless electrical activity, bedside ultrasound identifies interventions during resuscitation associated with improved survival to hospital admission. A REASON Study. Resuscitation. 2017; 120:103–107.
  5. Huis In ‘t Veld MA, Allison MG, Bostick DS, et al. Ultrasound use during cardiopulmonary resuscitation is associated with delays in chest compressions. Resuscitation. 2017; 119:95–98.
  6. Hu K, Gupta N, Teran F, Saul T, Nelson BP, Andrus P. Variability in Interpretation of Cardiac Standstill Among Physician Sonographers. Ann Emerg Med. 2018; 71:193–198.
  7. Smith-Bindman R, Aubin C, Bailitz J, et al. Ultrasonography versus computed tomography for suspected nephrolithiasis. N Engl J Med. 2014; 371:1100–1110.
  8. Atkinson PR, Milne J, Diegelmann L, et al. Does point-of-care ultrasonography improve clinical outcomes in emergency department patients with undifferentiated hypotension? An International Randomized Controlled Trial From the SHoC-ED Investigators. Ann Emerg Med. 2018; 72:478–489.
  9. Gaspari R, Weekes A, Adhikari S, et al. Emergency department point-of-care ultrasound in out-of-hospital and in-ED cardiac arrest. Resuscitation. 2016; 109:33–39.

Do you already practice evidence-based sonology? If not, will you start?  Comment below, or, AIUM members, continue the conversation on Connect, the AIUM’s online community. 

Connect

Michael Prats, MD, is currently Assistant Ultrasound Director and Director of Ultrasound Research in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. He is the founder of the Ultrasound G.E.L. Podcast that reviews recent articles in point of care ultrasound. Follow him on Twitter by his handle @PratsEM or visit ultrasoundgel.org.

SonoBowl: A Game, A Challenge, An Education

SonoBowlOn July 12, 2018, 4 teams of 4 sonography students each competed in the inaugural SonoBowl, a game pitting the students’ ultrasound knowledge and skills against each other. Howard Community College (HCC) hosted the event, which the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) sponsored, and teams from Howard Community College; Montgomery College; Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences; and University of Maryland, Baltimore County participated. Although only 4 students from each team could participate, many more attended to observe.

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SonoBowl teams: HCC Sound Dragons are in red (as is their dragon), UMBC Dopplergangers are in black, PA Penguins are in white (4 in front), and MC Ultrasonic are in white (middle and back rows). AIUM staff are in blue.

If you are interested in hosting your own SonoBowl, you’re in luck. AIUM will be sharing instructions on recreating it, enabling schools around the country and abroad to create their own SonoBowl, where sonography students can come together to compete in ultrasound with question-and-answer sessions, scanning, and case challenges. The following is a review of the inaugural  SonoBowl. If you want all of the details, you’ll need a copy of the SonoBowl Playbook. If you are interested in receiving a copy of the SonoBowl Playbook, please let us know.

HCC and AIUM worked together to quickly pull this event together in just 2 months, including 6 conference calls and meetings—planning the itinerary, developing questions and case challenges, inviting teams and registering them, and setting up the event. Development began in May and concluded with the event, which included:

    • Round 1, Who Gives a Kahoot?: 30 multiple-choice questions and 1 bonus multiple-choice question on Kahoots;20180712_094549
    • Round 2, Mission I’m Possible: 3 rounds of scanning testing vascular, obstetric, and abdominal knowledge; and
  • Round 3, Have You Hertz About My Case Study?: A case challenge.

Round 1 was a question-and-answer session. Each team was supplied (by HCC) with a tablet to use for answering the questions as quickly as they could, as wins were based on speed as well as accuracy. The questions were developed by AIUM with input from Directors and faculty from the schools.

IMG_0591Round 2, which can be seen in this video, was a hands-on demonstration of the students’ skills. The teams were given 15 minutes at each station, equipped with an ultrasound machine and a model, to complete their task and answer the questions, which were provided on a form in an envelope and could be completed on a provided clipboard. A proctor at each station reviewed the image obtained for the task and indicated on the form whether it was correct and whether the answers to the question were each correct. After 15 minutes, the teams would rotate stations until all teams had competed at each station.

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For those students who attended but were not participating, a scavenger hunt was developed to fill this time. The students were randomly divided into 4 teams, each of which included students from each of the schools. Each team was given a campus map and a list hinting at 15 things to find around the campus. They were tasked with answering questions for some and taking a selfie at each to prove they found them. For example, one such hint was “Orange is definitely your color! Take a selfie with your face in the circle,” referring to a sculpture outside one of the buildings. Once Round 2 was complete, a lunch was provided.

Round 3 began with an announcement of where each team stood in the competition; HCC DMS Sound Dragons were in 4th place with 58 points, MC Ultrasonic was in 3rd with 66 points, and
UMBC Dopplergangers and PA Penguins were tied with 74 points each. Knowing how many points they had and the topic of the case study (gynecologic ultrasound), each team then indicated how many points they were willing to wager for the final round. All teams wagered their full points balance.

The teams were given a brief history for a case and shown the ultrasound images associated with it, then were given 1 minute to indicate which of 4 diagnoses was the correct one. After time was up, each team was asked to show their wager, beginning with the last place team, and the scores were adjusted based on their wager and whether they answered correctly. For this inaugural SonoBowl, MC Ultrasonic won the day with 132 points and was awarded the trophy to hold onto until next year’s SonoBowl, when it will be back up for grabs. Each of the winning team’s members also won a free AIUM student membership for a year and an insulated lunch bag containing AIUM gifts.

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If you are interested in receiving a copy of the SonoBowl Playbook, please let us know.

The American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine is a multidisciplinary medical association of more than 9000 physicians, sonographers, scientists, students, and other health care providers. Established in the early 1950s, the AIUM is dedicated to advancing the safe and effective use of ultrasound in medicine through professional and public education, research, development of guidelines, and accreditation.

Sonographers and Contrast-Enhanced Ultrasound

Now that contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) has been approved in the United States for several abdominal applications in adults and pediatrics, I decided to take a deeper look into the sonographer’s role in CEUS. Traditionally, sonographers perform ultrasound examinations based on a protocol, construct a preliminary ultrasound findings worksheet, and perhaps discuss the findings with a radiologist. And now CEUS has transformed traditional ultrasound and gives physicians and sonographers additional diagnostic information related to the presence and patterns of contrast enhancement.DSC00125

Based on sonographers’ traditional scope of practice, some questions came to mind. What is the training process for sonographers to learn CEUS? How should CEUS images be obtained and stored? How should CEUS findings be communicated?

I envision CEUS training for sonographers broken down into stages, where they begin by learning the basics and eventually transition to where they can perform and record the studies independently. The first stage for sonographers is the ‘CEUS learning curve.’ In this stage, sonographers become familiar with basic CEUS concepts, eg, understanding physics of contrast agents and contrast-specific image acquisition modes, CEUS protocols, and typical patterns of contrast enhancement seen in various organs. In addition, an important part of the training is recognizing contrast reactions, and learning IV placement, documentation and billing related to CEUS.

The next stage involves sonographers performing more patient care and gaining scanning responsibilities. Sonographers place the IV and prepare the contrast agent. The scope of sonographer responsibilities does not generally include contrast injection (although it is reasonable since CT, MR, nuclear medicine, and echocardiography technologists routinely place IV lines and inject contrast). It should be noted that CEUS examination usually requires an additional person (physician, nurse, or another sonographer) to assist with contrast injection while the sonographer performs the ultrasound examination. In the beginning of sonographer training, it is very beneficial to have a radiologist present in the room to guide scanning and appropriate image recording.

In the third stage, a well-trained sonographer is more independent. At the completion of the examination, the sonographer will either send clips or still images to a physician to document the CEUS findings and discuss the procedure. Ideally, a worksheet is filled out, comparable to what is done today with “regular” ultrasound.

The majority of CEUS examinations are performed based on pre-determined protocols, usually requiring a 30–60-sec cineloop to document contrast wash-in and arterial phase enhancement. After that continuous scanning should be terminated and replaced with intermittent acquisition of short 5–10-sec cineloops obtained every 30–60 sec to document late phase contrast enhancement. These short clips have the advantage of limiting stored data while providing the interpreting physician with real-time imaging information. Detailed information on liver imaging CEUS protocols could be found in the recently published technical guidelines of the ACR CEUS LI-RADS committee.[i] Some new users might acquire long 2–3-minute cineloops instead, producing massive amounts of CEUS data. As a result, studies can slow down a PACS system if departments are not equipped to deal with large amounts of data. In addition, prolonged continuous insonation of large areas of vascular tissue could result in significant ultrasound contrast agent degradation limiting our ability to detect late wash-out, a critical diagnostic parameter required to diagnose well-differentiated HCC. Any solution requires identifying and capturing critical moments, which will be determined by a sonographer’s expertise. Exactly how sonographers can ensure CEUS will successfully capture the most important images is a critical question that must be answered and standardized.

Ideally, leading academic institutions should provide CEUS training for physicians and sonographers. I have seen and attended CEUS continuing medical education courses and they are a great way for physicians and sonographers to learn CEUS imaging. CEUS is a step forward for sonographers and will potentially transform our scope of practice. The technology will advance the importance of sonographers and diagnostic ultrasound, and importantly it will improve the care of our patients.

Acknowledgements:
Dr. Laurence Needleman, MD
Dr. Andrej Lyshchik, MD
Dr. John Eisenbrey, PhD
Joanna Imle, RDMS, RVT

[i] Lyshchik A, Kono Y, Dietrich CF, Jang HJ, Kim TK, Piscaglia F, Vezeridis A, Willmann JK, Wilson SR. Contrast-enhanced ultrasound of the liver: technical and lexicon recommendations from the ACR CEUS LI-RADS working group. Abdom Radiol (NY). 2017 Nov 18. doi: 10.1007/s00261-017-1392-0. [Epub ahead of print]

Has CEUS helped your sonography career? How do you envision CEUS being incorporated in your work? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Corinne Wessner BS, RDMS, RVT is the Research Sonographer for Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Corinne has an interest in contrast-enhanced ultrasound, ultrasound research, medical education, and sonographer advocacy.