Dating Pearls

Assisted reproductive technology (ART) dating trumps all other sonographic dating. If the dating is off with ART, think about asking if the embryo was put in the uterus at 5 days, and not zero days, as that is how it is often calculated. This can be important if the embryo is larger than expected, as ART pregnancies have an increased incidence of Beckwith Weidman Syndrome, which is an overgrowth syndrome. If the embryo is smaller than expected, then the embryo should be followed more closely for possible congenital or chromosomal anomalies.

If the pregnancy is not ART, dating should be based on the 2014 ACOG/AIUM Committee Recommendations (Methods for Estimating the Due Date. Committee Opinion No, 700. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol 2017; 129:e150–154).

Measurement of the embryo or fetus in the first trimester is the most accurate method to determine gestational age. In the first trimester, the 2014 Recommendations state that if the pregnancy is less than 8 weeks 6 days, the embryo should be within 5 days of LMP (last menstrual period) and otherwise should be re-dated using ultrasound dates of the crown rump length. One mistake often made at this time is to include the gestational sac size in dating; the crown rump length is more accurate than the sac size and thus it should not be averaged into the estimated gestational age.

Crown rump length growth curves have been updated by Pexsters et al (Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol 2010; 35:650–655) using 4387 exams, whereas Hadlocks curves (Hadlock et al Radiology 1992; 182:501–505) were only based on 416 exams. These have some significant discrepancies in the 5–7 weeks gestational age range so we recommend using the Pexsters curves.

Crown Lump Length

From 9 weeks to 16 weeks 6 days, the 2014 Recommendations suggest that the dating should be within 7 days and be re-dated if greater than “7-day” discrepancy.

From 16 weeks to 21 weeks 6 days, the 2014 Recommendations suggest that the dating should be within 10 days and be re-dated if greater than “10-day” discrepancy.

From 22 weeks to 27 weeks 6 days, the 2014 Recommendations suggest that the dating should be within 14 days and be re-dated if greater than “14-day” discrepancy.

From 28 weeks and beyond, the 2014 Recommendations suggest that the dating should be within 21 days and be re-dated if greater than “21-day” discrepancy.

We should not re-date a pregnancy in the second or third trimester if there are good ultrasound dates in the first trimester. If the patient gives “excellent dates” based on history (eg keeping a temperature chart, knowing date of conception based on specific dates of being with partner) and there is a greater than expected discrepancy of dates, then a follow-up sonogram should be recommended in 2–4 weeks, depending on the time of gestation (4 weeks in the second trimester and 2 weeks in the third trimester) so that appropriate growth can be assessed.

Serial growth is important in assessing dating. A fetus that grows 4 weeks in a 4-week period is likely dated appropriately. When the fetus grows more than 4 weeks in a 4-week period then accelerated growth should be reported, suggesting either an LGA (large for gestational age) or macrosomic fetus. History of prior pregnancies can be particularly helpful in these cases. Placement of the calipers at the outer edge of the subcutaneous tissue is particularly important in these cases. We often require 3 measurements, which are averaged to assess LGA/macrosomic fetuses.

When fetuses grow less than 4 weeks in a 4-week period then SGA (small for gestational age) or IUGR (intrauterine growth restriction) are suspected. Additional studies for well-being should be performed, such as umbilical artery Doppler, middle cerebral artery Doppler, maximum vertical pocket of amniotic fluid, biophysical profile, cerebroplacental ratio (CPR), or antenatal testing.

 

Do you have any tips on sonographic dating? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Dolores H. Pretorius, MD, is a Professor of Radiology at University of California, San Diego, and Director of Imaging at UC San Diego Maternal-Fetal Care and Genetics, an AIUM-accredited practice.

Andrew D. Hull, MD, is a Professor of Clinical Reproductive Medicine at University of California, San Diego, and Director of UC San Diego Maternal-Fetal Care and Genetics, an AIUM-accredited practice.

Do You Allow Patients to Video?

An expecting new mother comes into your practice for a routine ultrasound exam. During the exam she pulls out her cell phone to capture a few photos and maybe a short video. What do you do?

As cell phone use has become ubiquitous, the AIUM has been receiving more and more calls and messages asking about cell phone use policies during obstetric exams. Practices are searching for guidance on how to set such a policy and what should be included.

To get a sense of how practices are dealing with this issue, last month, the AIUM sent a short survey to 1,652 individuals in 1,138 AIUM OB-accredited practices. Nearly 22% of recipients completed the survey.

video

Allow patients to record exams?

According to the results, 88% said their practice does not allow videotaping during OB exams. However, only 51% said their practice has a written policy that supports this.

Why Have a Policy?
Those practices that forbid or restrict videotaping do so for a number of reasons. Some of the most commonly cited reasons include:

policy

Written policy in place?

  • It is distracting. Several respondents mentioned that having people videotaping is very distracting to the sonographers and physicians who are trying to conduct a medical examination. To help these individuals focus on medical care, videotaping is not allowed.
  • Legality. In order to protect the patient’s medical information and staff identity, practices do not allow videotaping.
  • Findings. When a sonographer or physician begins an examination, they do not know what they might find. To avoid the widespread sharing of unread studies or potentially personal information or decisions, practices ask that patients keep their phones off.

Enforcement
While nearly half of AIUM-accredited practices stated they do not have a written policy, there are several ways in which patients are told or asked to refrain from videotaping. Those methods include:

  • Information in new patient packages
  • Signs posted throughout the practice: waiting rooms, exam rooms, on the ultrasound machines
  • Verbal statements from sonographers and physicians

Even using these methods, survey respondents acknowledge that enforcement is difficult because people still pull out their phones and hit record. Some practices do empower their employees by allowing them to stop the exam should a visitor not comply with the videotaping rules.

When Is It OK?
Of those practices that allow videotaping, most have rules about when and how it is allowed.

  • Some practices allow short videos showing certain anatomy.
  • Others state that patients can’t videotape staff or require that staff stay silent when patients are videotaping.
  • In some practices, the sonographers and physicians use their discretion to control when and for how long videotaping can occur.
  • Others allow unlimited videotaping after the diagnostic portion of the exam.
  • Some practices will allow FaceTime (non-permanent) video during the exam but prohibit permanent videotaping.
  • And still others are completely open and allow the entire exam to be videotaped.

Even among those practices that forbid videotaping, some may be allowed. The typical exceptions are for deployed parents or foreign parents of a surrogate. Many practices mentioned that they try to avoid the videotaping issue altogether by stating their policy and then following that by telling the patient they will supply some pictures or short video clips.

What can you do?
If your practice is looking to set a policy or even seeking resources to support your policy, here are some items that might help.

  • Legal Counsel—If you are concerned about the legal aspect of allowing videotaping, or you are looking to set an official policy, seek legal advice and counsel.
  • AIUM’s Keepsake Imaging Official Statement—This resource may help you in framing your policy, and it serves as a great document to share with patients.
  • HIPAA—Several practices mentioned HIPAA compliance in their policies or statements as a reason for not allowing the use of videotaping during exams.
  • Consent Law—In setting your policy, you may have support through your state’s consent laws.

In most cases, obstetric patients are not videotaping with ill intent. But as physicians and sonographers, there are legitimate and medical reasons to consider whether your practice should institute a policy on the use of videotaping equipment. While it can be a challenge to balance legal liability, best practice guidelines, and customer service, working with your staff, your legal counsel, and your customers, you can create a policy that works for all.

Back to Academia

“How long have you been practicing?! And you went back to do an ultrasound fellowship? That’s amazing! I could never do that.” This was pretty much how the conversation went when people found out about my ultrasound background. You see, after my residency training, I practiced for 2 years as a Locum Tenens physician, then an additional 5 years in a community emergency department (ED), before going back for an ultrasound (US) fellowship. Sure, it is an unconventional path, but I believe if you want it badly enough, you can do it, too.

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Kristine S. Robinson, MD

To me, the biggest challenge was the salary cut. Many US fellows make somewhere around $50–70,000 annually. For most of us working in a community ED, that is a fourth or a fifth of what we could typically earn in a year. It all depends on your situation: Do you have kids? Car payments? Other significant bills? Is your mortgage reasonable? Do you have an emergency fund to fall back on? Does your spouse make a decent living? I recommend creating a realistic monthly budget. Be honest with yourself and decide what you can and cannot live without: cable with all the trimmings, the monthly wine and beer clubs, frequent international travel, the latest trend in fashion, the newest must-have gadget, and weekly trips to your favorite restaurants. If money is still tight, check to see if there is an option to moonlight.

The second challenge was going back to student mode. The assigned readings, coursework, podcasts, and post-chapter exams were time-consuming, but not daunting. Although, in the beginning, physics was giving me a bit of heartburn. I think the major adjustment I encountered was interacting with attending physicians and US faculty who were younger than me. There was also the research requirement, which most community-based emergency physicians (EPs) happily abandoned. As for the mandatory clinical hours (scanning and ED shifts), many full-time EPs would experience a reduction of 2–3 shifts per month. However, as a fellow, you have additional labor-intensive responsibilities, which include research, helping with the US quality assurance process, weekly US conferences, medical student US labs, EM resident US lectures and labs, US teaching shifts, and so forth.

Another challenge I grappled with was work-related musculoskeletal complaints from repetitive motion. In addition to our US teaching load, we were expected to perform about 4 to 6 9-hour scanning shifts a month, averaging about 22 to 28 scans a shift. Perhaps it was my age, but after a full day of scanning, I often had mild to moderate wrist, hip, and back pains. To be frank, I did not exactly practice good US ergonomic techniques, which in general is not often taught in EM US fellowship programs. Luckily, these were minor complaints and never progressed to anything serious.

With these challenges, you might wonder if it was all worth it. I absolutely believe so. In fact, I have often said that it was the best career decision that I had made so far. Before I even finished my fellowship, I was presented with 3 lucrative job offers. I instantly became a more competitive and coveted applicant. I had carved a niche for myself, and I knew that I would be vital to any ED I join. With my US experience, I improved my diagnostic and procedural skills. Not to mention, US made my shifts more fun. Lastly, if you are still not convinced, most US fellowships are only a year long, and time goes by fast.

 

Have you returned to school to gain more training in ultrasound? What was your experience? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Kristine S. Robinson is an Assistant Professor and Ultrasound faculty at West Virginia University (WVU) Department of Emergency Medicine in Morgantown, WV. She finished her Emergency Medicine residency at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, PA, in 2008. Afterward, she worked for 2 years as a Locum Tenens physician and 5 years in a community hospital before returning to WVU to complete an Ultrasound fellowship in 2016.

How Portable Ultrasound Got Me a Bottle of Wine

Well, Tuesday morning clinic was busy as usual. Hypertension, diabetes, depression, “it-hurts-here”s where troubling all my patients. My desk was across the hall from a colleague who had just seen a retired internist gentleman, 80 years old, reporting muscle weakness in his hips, fatigue, bitemporal headaches and some odd jaw symptoms when he ate. Don (I called him that, mostly because that was his name.) was investing some quality phone time trying to arrange a temporal artery biopsy as this method for diagnosis seemed so reasonable to him and to his internist patient. I listened in on his conversation, always ready to help, invited or not.

“Don, you know, if we pull our portable ultrasound machine, look at his temporal arteries and he has bilateral halo signs, the specificity approaches 100% for temporal arteritis and you can avoid biopsy all together in 38% of patients.”  I provided him a few convincing articles. He was not quite sure as he had never heard of this before.

Halo

Both internists were game, the doctor and the patient. Portable US in the exam room showed bilateral halos around the temporal arteries. I showed them the finding. Both raised their metaphorical eyebrows.

Patient: “I practiced internal medicine for almost 50 years and I have never seen anything like this. That is pretty impressive.”

Don: “Let’s get a sed rate today… See what that shows. Start some steroids and we’ll follow-up next Tuesday.” (For those not in-the-know, sed is erythrocyte sedimentation rate.)

On Friday, after 3 days of steroids, he was starting to feel like his old self again. Headaches were resolving. Fatigue was much better. By Tuesday, with his visit to the clinic, he was ecstatic over his progress. Don reported that he kept remarking on that young man with his portable US machine (That was me.) and how that US would’ve changed his practice had he had one back then.

On Thursday, the patient wanted to show his appreciation to both Don and I by bringing in 2 bottles of red wine, 1 for him and 1 for me.

I had read about the utility of portable ultrasonography, oh, 12-15 years ago for the first time. I had drunk the cool-aid of portable ultrasonography. At our medical school, we provide 27 hours of didactics and hands-on training for our medical students in their first 2 years. Our internal medicine residents get formal didactics on echo, abdomen, vascular, as well as MSK, small parts, and many other US applications. We have provided CME for over 700 physicians in our 3- and 4-day courses. I have been convinced that we need to reach out and teach all who will listen that portable ultrasonography can fundamentally change the way we practice medicine in certain settings.

So portable ultrasound changed this patient’s experience; quicker diagnosis and quicker recovery of health. He was grateful and expressed his gratitude with the fruit of the vine.

So portable ultrasound changed my colleague’s thoughts on its utility based on one clinical exposure. Don asked me many times to use my machine for other patients of his.

So what did I get from this profound, thought-provoking intersection of patient doctor and too? Personal gratification of helping? An underscoring of my belief that portable ultrasonography is important?

I got a nice bottle of wine!

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Do you know of an instance in internal medicine in which ultrasound resulted in a quicker diagnosis? Have you incorporated ultrasound into your internal medicine practice? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Apostolos P. Dallas, MD, FACP, CHCP, is Assistant Professor of Medicine at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Director of CME at Carilion Clinic, and Associate Program Director of the Internal Medicine Residency program at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

The Rolling Sonograms

“Hold still and keep your eye shut tight,” I instructed, as I lathered my probe with gel and placed it carefully on my model’s left eye. Having just narrowly escaped the brink of elimination, we were riding a wave of momentum. The trophy was so close we could taste it, but the final round of SonoSlam 2017 was a real-time scan-off on model patients, and our opponents had already proven their skill. Having a live audience didn’t make imaging a pupillary reflex or calculating ejection fraction any easier, and we were feeling the heat.

The day began with scans on rotating stations testing basic knowledge and technique for various organ systems. We struggled with the hepatobiliary station (turns out most teams did over the course of the day; guess we all need more practice) and the physics/knowledge station (I still don’t know how Fourier functions are used to convert sinusoidal data to Cartesian data to produce an image). Still, we put in a strong showing, and at halftime, of 27 teams, 2 of the 3 Ohio State teams placed in the top 5.

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image1

Round 2 was trickier but more entertaining than round 1, with stations designed to test our technique and creativity. Among the highlights: identifying an image acquired by a teammate via ultrasound charades, guiding a blindfolded teammate to acquire the correct scan using nothing but verbal cues, and acquiring a biopsy sample under ultrasound guidance. These were difficult, but despite a few groans of frustration, we enjoyed ourselves as we raced through the stations. We felt so good about our performance that we even let ourselves think ahead, speculating whether we would face our teammates in the final. That changed quickly, however, with the announcement of the finalists: we had made the final, but placed third, and were the only OSU team left.

The first challenge of the finals was Dr. Boulger’s favorite ultrasound game, the peel-and-reveal. Tiles filling the screen are removed one by one until someone correctly guesses the image underneath, with more points awarded the more tiles remained. Any hesitation or uncertainty meant more points for the competition, and only the top 2 teams would survive till the second round. Watching the other teams grab an early lead, we sweated bullets as we clawed our way back, only to fall behind again with a premature guess. It was neck-and-neck till the very end, when a gutsy call of McConnell’s sign from Sam edged us into second place. We collapsed back into our chairs in relief, and our attendings, watching from the back, let out their collective breath, probably.

For the final challenge, each team sent a representative to scan on live models behind a closed curtain, with their screens displayed for the audience to see. Each team member had to scan twice, and the audience would vote on the better image by way of cheers and applause. They were also allowed to give advice to the scanners, which meant the auditorium soon became a pandemonium of shouted instructions. Objectives included cardiac output and bladder calculations, MSK ultrasound, and ocular imaging. This time we took the early lead thanks to Charles’ affinity for shoulder scans, but quickly ran into setbacks as well (hard to measure bladder volume when the patient had just peed). We managed to keep up our momentum, however, and after 6 nerve-wracking rounds, we edged our opponents 4-2, clinching the SonoSlam championship for Ohio State for the second time.

Looking back on the day’s events, I am proud of our team’s accomplishments but also impressed with the competition. We have great mentors and almost a decade of ultrasound experience between the 3 of us, but some of the other teams were no less strong, and frankly we were very fortunate to take home the title. To me, this means a bright future for ultrasound education, as medical students across the country are learning valuable skills that will put them in good stead for residency and beyond. More importantly, it means that next year’s teams will have to step up their game, as Ohio State must now defend its title as 2-time SonoSlam champion. No pressure, guys.

 

Have you participated in SomoSlam? If so, tell us about your experience. Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

The 2017 SonoSlam champions, The Rolling Sonograms, was composed of Samatha King, Charles McCombs, and Jeffrey Yu. Samantha King is a fourth year medical student from the Ohio State University College of Medicine planning to pursue a career in emergency medicine. Charles McCombs is a third year medical student at the Ohio State University College of Medicine and hopes to end up in pediatrics and/or emergency medicine. Jeffrey Yu is an anesthesiology PGY-1 at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

 

 

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.

Obstetric Ultrasound: Tips for Sharing Outcomes With Your Patient

“Are you comfortable? Am I pressing too hard?” I ask my patient these questions to assuage my own concerns and delay the inevitable as I study the ultrasound image of her 20-week-old fetus. Although she says she’s fine, my patient appears expectant and anxious as she, too, searches the black and white image of her unborn child. I wonder, of course, if she sees what I see—a cleft lip and palate.

If you’ve conducted ultrasounds for routine evaluation of your obstetric patients, you know that patients and their partners typically experience a mix of emotions, namely joy and worry, as they await results. You know, too, that delivering positive results is a pleasure as you share in your patient’s happiness and relief. In all likelihood, you also are relieved at escaping the discomfort of delivering bad news to your patient.

Dr and patient

Delivering Abnormal Ultrasound Results

Telling your patient about any pregnancy or fetal abnormality, however common or rare, can be devastating for her, her husband/partner, and her family. After all, every patient wants to know her pregnancy is progressing as expected and her fetus is developing normally. It also can be difficult for you to tell your patient there is a problem. But as a practitioner, you must be prepared to deliver all results, good and bad, to your patients.

A key to delivering abnormal results to your patient includes knowing and using phrases that clearly and honestly apprise your patient of the results without stirring alarm.

Sound easy? It’s not! Even the most seasoned practitioners suggest they never become comfortable giving patients abnormal results.

When results aren’t cause for alarm, patients, especially those in a first pregnancy, still can be highly sensitive to even the slightest aberration. Furthermore, the situation can become complex given varied models for delivering care. For example, when a primary obstetrician sends a patient for scanning at an antenatal testing unit that a maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) specialist oversees, the question is whether the MFM or primary obstetrician should deliver the results. In some cases, patients have scans in emergency departments. What then? Does the radiologist, emergency physician, or primary obstetrician deliver the results?

As an MFM specialist in an antenatal testing unit, I follow my center’s policy to immediately inform patients about their ultrasound results, whatever the outcome. With empirical knowledge to support them, practitioners in my unit know that the longer patients await results, the more likely they are to ruminate, worry, and, in some cases, develop unfounded concerns about their ultrasound results.

With focus on the shared humanity between physician and patient, we treat each patient with careful consideration for her dignity and the compassion we would want for ourselves and our family members.

Once you have told your patient her results, get in touch with her primary obstetrician. In addition to giving the primary obstetrician an opportunity to prepare for a discussion with her/his patient, this approach is integral to delivering high-quality, comprehensive, and continued care.

Follow these tips for delivering abnormal results to your patient:

  • Write down phrases you are comfortable using and practice them with a simulated patient (a family member or friend)
  • Consider how you would feel if you were in the same situation
  • When face to face with your patient, take a moment to gather your thoughts before speaking if necessary
  • Use a calm voice
  • Speak slowly and clearly
  • Look at your patient when talking to her; if her husband/partner is in the exam room, also look at him/her
  • Be straightforward and honest without creating alarm
  • Be sensitive to emotional ques from your patient to pace discussion appropriately. A sobbing patient is unlikely to hear what you’re saying, so wait patiently until she’s ready to listen
  • Ask your patient if she has questions; ask her husband/partner if he/she has questions
  • Answer as many questions as you can; if the patient asks a question you cannot answer on the spot, tell her you will get an answer within the next day
  • Reassure your patient of potential solutions for the situation without making promises
  • Recommend educational material that can help your patient better understand the problem
  • If the problem is genetic in origin, explain the value of genetic counseling before any future pregnancies
  • Take extra time to address your patient’s concerns if necessary
  • Ask your patient if she would like a referral for a counselor so that she can work through feelings about the results
  • Follow up with your patient the next day with a phone call

Telling Your Patient About Ultrasound Results: Practice and Prepare!

All fetal abnormalities on ultrasound, even the most insignificant, are understandably upsetting for parents to be. But being prepared before you break the news can help you and your patients feel more comfortable discussing the situation, including potential outcomes and solutions.

GuptaOne of the privileges of practicing obstetrics in the 2000s is that many of us deliver good news more often than bad news. But this also means that being adept at delivering abnormal ultrasound results requires practice outside as well as inside the office.

How do you deliver bad news to a patient? When do you provide counseling? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Vivek Gupta, MD, is a clinical instructor and fellow in maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, Wisconsin.