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.

Who Has Time to Scan?

image001When I arrived to my shift in the Emergency Department one Thursday, there were 5 unassessed patients on my side with more than 25 in the waiting room, some waiting for hours to be seen. Anyone who works in a busy practice knows the pressure to expeditiously evaluate these patients, and point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) may be the last thing on your mind.

However, when used properly, POCUS is a time saver. It can lead us to the diagnosis faster, allow for next-step downstream testing, and alert our colleagues in other specialties early that we might need them soon, perhaps even occasionally saving lives.

The excuses to not do an ultrasound are many. How do I fit it into my busy practice? The question is: truly how do I not?

  1. Have the equipment easily accessible.

Searching for an ultrasound machine can be extremely frustrating and a disincentive to using it. No one likes to walk around and search every patient room before you even start to scan.

Because of this, every area should have their designated machine with a home base that is clearly marked and known to everybody. There are additional smart ways to ease this process. We are using a Real Time Location System with RFID technology where equipment is easily located on a tracking board. Other institutions can page an assistant through their EMR to set up the ultrasound in the patient room. Though more cost-intensive, some have chosen to have a wall-mounted machine in every room.

Location board

  1. Bring the machine with you.

Don’t be lazy. There are many patient complaints such as shortness of breath, flank or upper abdominal pain, first trimester bleeding, or eye problems where I am likely going to do an ultrasound study. In these cases, I will bring the machine into the room when first meeting the patient, rather than excuse myself to get it later. Through this, the traditional fragmentation of patient evaluation—ordering a test and waiting for the results—becomes streamlined and sometimes provides the definitive answer immediately.

  1. Rethink your work-flow.

It does not help to bring the ultrasound system with you, if you first need to place an EMR order. Although institution-specific, some have found ways to break up the traditional work-flow (order > worklist > scan), allowing evaluation of patients right away. This requires a discussion with your IT department and administrator but can enable you to rapidly use ultrasound at the bedside.
Also get in the habit of doing an exam the same way every time and maybe set up your machine with predefined labels. You will be surprised how much more efficient you will be and how the quality of your scans will improve with repetition.

  1. Have learners leave the machine in the room.

Our more senior trainees are very versed with ultrasound and usually can get high-quality images without much hands-on direction. If you have learners at different stages, I highly recommend to have them leave the ultrasound machine in the room after completing an exam. You can then review their study right in the room and obtain more views as needed. This avoids setting up the equipment again just for a few additional images.

  1. Keep equipment on the machine.

Having commonly-used supplies on the machine can reduce frustration of going in and out of the room. The most common ultrasound-guided procedure at our facility is IV access. For this reason, we stock the special catheters as well as sterile gel packets on the machine.image003

Recall the last time you weren’t lazy, rolled the ultrasound machine into the room with you and found the ileocolonic intussusception and asked the pediatric radiologist to stay late to do the air contrast enema, or the surgeon to take the patient to the OR with a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)? Perhaps it was as simple as knowing it was acute cholecystitis and not ordering the contrast CT scan, sparing the young person contrast and radiation. If I can do it on a busy night, so can you.

Do you have other tips how to fit ultrasound into your busy practice? How has ultrasound made your job easier? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Tobias Kummer, MD, RDMS, FACEP, is Director of Emergency Ultrasound in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

Should You Include CEUS and Elastography in Your Liver US Practice?

 

Today, the liver is regarded with high importance by our clinical colleagues. The obesity epidemic, with its considerable impact in North America, is associated with severe metabolic disturbances including nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Further, liver cancer is the only solid organ cancer with an increasing incidence in North America. Where do we as ultrasonographers fit into the imaging scheme to most appropriately deal with these new challenges?

The liver is the largest organ in the body, and certainly the most easily accessed on an abdominal ultrasound (US). It has been the focus of countless publications since the introduction of abdominal ultrasound many decades ago. Exquisite resolution allows for excellent detailed liver evaluation allowing US to play an active role in the study of both focal and diffuse liver disease. Focal liver masses are often incidentally detected on US examinations performed for other reasons and on scans performed on symptomatic patients. Abdominal pain, elevated liver function tests and nonspecific systemic symptoms may all be associated with liver disease. The introduction of color Doppler to abdominal US scanners many years ago elevated the role of US by allowing for improved capability of US to participate in assessment of the hemodynamic function of the liver as well.

malignant tumor ceus

The well-recognized value of abdominal US, including detailed morphologic liver assessment, has made this examination the most frequent study performed in diagnostic imaging departments worldwide. However, in recent years, US has been relegated to an inferior status relative to CT and MR scan, as their use of intravenous contrast agents has made them the corner stone modalities for virtually all imaging related to the presence of focal liver masses. As we now live in an era of noninvasive diagnosis of focal liver disease, greyscale US has fallen out of favor, as it is nonspecific for liver mass diagnosis. While US is the recommended modality for surveillance scans in those at risk for development of hepatocellular carcinoma, today, all identified nodules are then investigated further with contrast-enhanced CT and/or MR scan.

In the more recent past, US has been augmented by 2 incredible noninvasive biomarkers: elastography, which measures tissue stiffness, and contrast-enhanced ultrasound, which shows perfusion to the microvascular level for the first time possible with US. These noninvasive additions are invaluable and their adoption in routine US practices may allow the reemergence of US as a major player in the field of liver imaging.

Most conventional US machines today are equipped with the capability to perform elastography, especially with point shear wave techniques (pSWE). In pSWE, an ARFI pulse is used to generate shear waves in the liver in a small (approximately 1 cm3) ROI. B mode imaging is used to monitor the displacement of liver tissue due to the shear waves. From the displacements monitored over time at different locations from the ARFI pulse, the shear wave speed is calculated in meters per second, with higher velocities associating with increased tissue stiffness. The accuracy for the determination of liver fibrosis and cirrhosis with pSWE as compared with gold standard liver biopsy, is now undisputable. Because of the great significance of liver fibrosis secondary to fatty liver and the obesity epidemic, the development of this technique as a routinely available study is essential. Because of the frequent selection of US as the first test chosen for any patient suspect to have undiagnosed diffuse liver disease, the opportunity for elastography to be included with the diagnostic morphologic US test should be developed as a routine.

Contrast-enhanced US (CEUS), similarly, is available on most currently available mid- and high-range US systems, allowing for nondestructive low MI techniques to image tumor and liver vascularity following the injection of microbubble contrast agents for US. This allows for a similar algorithmic approach to contrast-enhanced CT and MR scan for noninvasive diagnosis of focal liver masses. CEUS additionally offers unique imaging benefits that include no requirement for ionizing radiation and also imaging without risk of nephrotixity, invaluable in the many patients who present for imaging with high creatinine, preventing injection of both CT and MR contrast agents.

Incorporation of pSWE and CEUS into standard liver US in patients with suspect diffuse or focal liver disease is a cost-effective and highly appropriate consideration as this is readily available, performed without ionizing radiation, and at a considerable cost saving over all other choices.

Can you diagnose a hepatocellular carcinoma or other liver tumor with CEUS?  And, can you determine if a liver is cirrhotic or not?  With the addition of pSWE and CEUS to your liver US capability, yes, you can.

 

What is your experience with treating liver disease? What aspect is most difficult for you? What other area do you think would benefit from the addition of CEUS? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Stephanie R Wilson is a Clinical Professor at the University of Calgary.

 

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.

SonoSlam 2017

16SonoSlam_logoIf you attended the AIUM convention the past 2 years you may have heard mention of SonoSlam in passing. So what is it? SonoSlam is a medical student ultrasound competition and educational event. It was conceived as an idea to promote medical student ultrasound and was officially born in Orlando in 2015. A few members of the medical education committee were discussing how to get students more engaged in ultrasound at the national level. A national ultrasound student interest group had been formed and got behind the idea of nationalizing ultrasound activities for medical students. Many of us had been involved in regional events such as Ultrafest or had participated in Sonogames™, an emergency medicine resident ultrasound competition. As we brainstormed, SonoSlam came to fruition. We wanted this event to be more than a game, making sure to integrate education into the proceedings. Given the diversity of exposure to ultrasound in undergraduate medical education, the faculty wanted to ensure that this event would be appealing to students of all levels of experience. In addition, the unique offering of AIUM is that this event would be multidisciplinary. With these key components of education, competition, and a multidisciplinary approach SonoSlam was created. The inaugural SonoSlam was held in New York in 2016 with the winning team awarded the Peter Arger Cup, named after the famed radiologist who championed medical student ultrasound education at the AIUM. Seventeen teams from 12 different schools participated in this inaugural event with more than 30 faculty from across the country. This year in Orlando we grew to 23 teams from 17 schools from across the country—Oregon to New York to Florida and all in between. We had more than 50 faculty from a multitude of specialties, including emergency medicine, internal medicine, critical care, obstetrics and gynecology, radiology, and pediatrics. We plan to continue to host this event annually with the lofty goal of having representation from every medical school in the country. We hope to see you in New York March 24, 2018!

SonoSlam2017

For more information about SonoSlam or if you are interested getting involved please email us: sonoslam@gmail.com.

Written by Creagh Boulger, Rachel Liu, and Dave Bahner. Creagh Boulger, MD, RDMS, FACEP, is Assistant Professor, Assistant Director of Ultrasound, and Assistant Fellowship Director of Emergency Ultrasound at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Rachel Liu, BAO, MBBCh, is Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine and Director of Point-of-Care Ultrasound Education at Yale University School of Medicine. Dave Bahner, MD, RDMS, FAIUM, FAAEM, FACEP, is Professor and Director of Ultrasound, Fellowship Director, Investigator, and Core Faculty at Ohio State University.

How do you make ultrasound education engaging? Do you have any ideas for bringing students from across the country together? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Money, Politics, and Ego

The AIUM is a unique organization of professionals passionate about the capabilities and potential of ultrasound to help our patients. With the annual convention freshly over, and a long list of things to work on for next year, I’ve been thinking about the AIUM and
why it’s an important group for me.

Although the AIUM is not the primary organization for any of us, that’s what is special and interesting about the AIUM. We all belong to our separate subspecialty interest groups, our tribes, where there is familiarity and comfort in being surrounded by people who are like us, and do what we do, and think like we do. But what other society do you belong to that has the mix of medical and surgical specialties, sonographers, scientists, residents, students, and industry partners? The AIUM’s 19 communities and interest groups cover a diversity of interests and practices, and bring people together that in the “real world” of our day-to-day work may find themselves at odds with each other.

ColeyAnd that’s the challenge of the AIUM: to be our best and fulfill our mission of providing the best ultrasound imaging care to our patients means that we have to set aside (at least in part and as best that we can) issues of money, politics, and ego.

This is not always easy.

The world around us is often not encouraging toward cooperation and service to ideals greater than immediate self-interests.

But that’s what AIUM members try to do. Even if it isn’t easy.

If you attended the recent convention in Orlando, I hope that you spent some time attending sessions or talking to people from outside your main area of interest. That’s an opportunity that you just can’t get at other meetings: to exchange ideas and excitement, to challenge and provoke, and ultimately a chance to learn and advance both personally and as medical professionals.

Similarly, the next time you pick up a copy of the Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine, read an article in an area that you don’t practice. Even if you can’t appreciate the nuances, appreciate the creativity of the work and the varied applications of ultrasound in medicine. There are a lot of bright people out there doing cool things. I would especially recommend reading the basic science articles. The technology, instrumentation, and techniques that we take for granted come from here. You may not fully grasp them any more than I do, but this is where the big leaps are going to come from, and it’s good to know what could be just over the horizon.

I hope that you’ll get as much out of the AIUM as I have over the years. I hope that you’ll step out of your comfort zone and talk with people from other disciplines and interests. I hope that you’ll ask questions and get involved. I hope that the AIUM helps you learn and grow, and that you will help the AIUM to figure out how to do that well. If we can do this together, then we and our patients will be the better for it.

What about your AIUM membership do you find most valuable? How do you benefit from the diversity of medical specialties within the AIUM? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound. Interested in volunteering for the AIUM? Check out the volunteer page.

Brian Coley, MD, AIUM President (2017–2019), is radiologist-in-chief and the Frederic N. Silverman chair for pediatric radiology at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, as well as professor of radiology and pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

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.