Ultrasound Made Me the Doctor I Wanted to Be

I didn’t come into medicine knowing much about what doctors really did. I also didn’t graduate my emergency medicine residency really believing point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) was all that useful. Maybe it’s just a fad, I remember thinking.Minardi, Joseph J.

There were two things I did come to enjoy about medicine: making interesting diagnoses and intervening in ways that helped patients. Those were the victories and they were always more satisfying when I got to do them as independently as possible. It was great to diagnose appendicitis with a CT scan, but I had to share at least some of the credit with the radiologist.

I remember sometimes being frustrated with the fragmentation of care in American medicine. Send the patient to another facility with these services, order this imaging study by this specialist, consult this specialist for this procedure, and so on.

A few cases early in my career really brought to light these frustrations.

One was a young woman who didn’t speak English who presented to our community hospital who appeared to have abdominal pain. It took hours after getting approval to call in a sonographer, consulting with the radiologist, and eventually calling in the gynecologist from home to take her to the operating room for her ruptured ectopic pregnancy. Hours went by while her condition worsened and I felt helpless, being uncertain about her diagnosis and relying on fragmented, incomplete information from others to make management decisions. Luckily, her youth allowed her to escape unscathed, but I was frustrated with what I didn’t know and couldn’t provide for her: a rapid, accurate diagnosis and quick definitive action.

In another case, a young boy was transferred to our tertiary care center for possible septic hip arthritis and waited nearly 24 hours to undergo more ED imaging, subspecialty consultation, then wait for the availability of the pediatric interventional radiologist to perform X-ray guided hip aspiration with procedural sedation. I remember again feeling helpless and seeing the hopelessness in the eyes of his parents after seeing so many doctors, spending so many hours far from home just waiting on someone to tell them what was wrong with their son and what was going to be done to help him.

After I was asked to lead POCUS education for our residency program and began to embrace it as a clinical tool, I encountered similar cases, but now with much more satisfying experiences for me as a physician, and hopefully, presumably for my patients. Now, I routinely hear stories from my residents and colleagues that go something like Hey Joe, check out this ectopic case, ED to OR in 20 minutes with bedside ultrasound. We have had cases of suspected hip arthritis where we were able to provide a diagnosis and care plan from the ED in 2–3 hours by performing bedside US-guided hip arthrocentesis. These and numerous other cases where diagnoses are made in minutes independently by the treating clinician have convinced me that POCUS can help improve healthcare. My colleagues and I have performed diagnostic and therapeutic procedures that we never would have considered attempting before we could competently use POCUS, allowing us to provide immediate care right where and when the patients needed it.

The “passing fad” of POCUS has allowed me to make medicine and being a doctor more into what I wanted it to be: seeing patients, giving them a diagnosis, decreasing the anxiety over uncertainty, and providing relief for their suffering. I trained and practiced without the advantages of ultrasound and I have seen the positive impact it can have not only on patients but also on the health care system and my job satisfaction as well. The advantages of more immediate, efficient diagnoses, better availability of advanced procedures can all be provided in a less fragmented, more cost-effective manner when treating clinicians are armed with and properly trained to use POCUS. There’s no way I would ever go back.

 

If you learned how to use ultrasound after you completed your original medical education, how did it affect your career? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Joseph J. Minardi, MD, is Chief of Emergency and Clinical Ultrasound, and Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and Medical Education at the West Virginia University School of Medicine.

The Future of Point-of-Care Ultrasound in Pediatric Emergency Medicine

Pediatrics entices practitioners with its focus on treating illness in the youngest patients, for long-term outcomes of future growth and development. When I reflect on my own journey through Pediatrics and Pediatric Emergency Medicine, helping patients in real-time through providing the best quality care given limited information, drew me to Pediatric Emergency Medicine.

Lianne Profile FinalPediatric Emergency Medicine (PEM) focuses on providing acute care to patients from the newest newborns to teenagers. With this breadth of ages comes differing pathology, physiology, and of course differences in relative and absolute size. Integration of point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) into PEM practice offers the clinician an added tool to provide the best possible care. Children are ideal patients for POCUS scanning as they often have slimmer body habitus, fewer comorbidities, and there is increasing interest in limiting ionizing radiation amongst all patients, especially the very young.

POCUS offers direct visualization for procedures such as endotracheal tube airway confirmation, central-line insertion, and intravenous and intraosseous access. Utilizing this clinical adjunct allows for accuracy in nerve block administration, reducing the volume used of local anesthetic and decreasing the need for systemic sedation. Visualizing fractures following reduction and assessing joints and soft tissue infections prior to decision of incision and drainage or aspiration can all be achieved using POCUS.

Because our patients vary in size, optimizing planning prior to starting procedures can help to maximize success. Risk in pediatric procedures are heightened due to variable sizing, risking too-deep insertion of needles and endotracheal tubes. Direct visualization helps to support the provider in making safe choices.

Beyond procedures, POCUS allows PEM providers to optimize resuscitation, through real-time monitoring of volume status, cardiac function, and pulmonary edema. Reassessment throughout resuscitation adds additional information to vital signs and end-organ markers as patients are treated.

As machines become increasingly accurate at more portable sizes, and as cloud storage is increasingly popular among organizations, the future of POCUS offers providers along the care-continuum the opportunity to share information and images. My hope for the future of acute POCUS would be to have pre-hospital POCUS, emergency POCUS, consultative radiology imaging, and follow-up POCUS imaging in community clinics on an integrated system allowing for shared images and progressive monitoring for long-standing conditions.

The future of POCUS is bright as innovation and technology disruption move ultrasound outside of the walls of the hospital, placing transducers in the hands of those at the bedside from the helicopter to the remote health clinic. For countries such as Canada, increased portability means increasing access for those populations most at risk of health inequity, those living in the far North and remote regions of my country, who have limited access to urban care. POCUS with added portability and technological integration can help improve access, and shared decision making between urban centers and remote regions with patient safety and privacy as a priority.

I’m excited to see where POCUS integration moves in the course of the rest of my medical career, as I look forward to being an advocate for access and clinical education in addition to being an expert that maintains clinical accountability, safety, and privacy. The promotion of these critical pillars will help determine the success of the POCUS-empowered clinical experience.

 

Do you use point-of-care ultrasound in pediatric practice? If so, how has it helped you? Is there another medical field you think should use ultrasound more? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Lianne McLean, MB BCh, BAO, FRCPC, is Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto; and Staff Physician and Chair of the Council of Informatics & Technology in the Division of Emergency Medicine at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada.

Training Beyond Discipline – Developing Devotion in Ultrasound

Mathews Benji KA point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) revolution is unfolding before our eyes, forever changing the way we interact with patients. It started with a revolution in specialties such as emergency medicine and critical care, and now it has entered into my sphere with internal medicine and hospital medicine. I see this whenever I’m on clinical service. A 3rd year medical student talks about diffuse B-lines as we stop antibiotics and start diuretics on a patient with pulmonary edema; a 3rd year resident asks to look at a patient’s kidney with ultrasound as we manage undifferentiated acute kidney injury; nursing staff curiously looking on as a patient is shown their weak heart as goals of care are discussed.

At the same time, we in internal medicine and hospital medicine are living in a medical world filled with many challenges towards implementation of POCUS. Though there are many devices in the emergency rooms and some in the critical care wards, there are not many in the inpatient wards nor in the clinics. Though numerous workshops and courses abound in POCUS, many attendees do not continue to use this skillset after training. Those that received initial training find it too challenging to discipline themselves to continue to scan.

It is that latter sentiment that caught my attention this last year. The concept of discipline and viewing POCUS through its lens. A quote by Luciano Pavarotti comes to mind,

“People think I’m disciplined. It is not discipline. It is devotion. There is a great difference.”

I’ve often heard the sentiments:

“It is so hard to learn POCUS, how do you find the time for it on a busy clinical service to get images?”

“I find it hard to set aside time during my non-clinical work days as other work and life piles up.”

I’m not sure about you, but the word discipline does not often carry an inspirational tone to it. There is a sense of drudgery, lack of passion surrounding the word. As an ultrasound director, that is the farthest from what I want my learners to experience with POCUS.

When I looked up the word discipline in the Oxford Dictionary there it was as well:

dis·ci·pline
noun
1.
the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.
“a lack of proper parental and school discipline”

2.
a branch of knowledge, typically one studied in higher education.
“sociology is a fairly new discipline”

Is it #1 that we were aiming for? Or at the very least, is that what people are sensing? Hopefully, we’re not using punishment to correct disobedience. The Pavorotti quote struck a chord in me. As a contrast to discipline, we have devotion.

The word “devotion” is defined by Oxford Dictionary as follows:

de·vo·tion
noun
1.  love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity, or cause.
“Eleanor’s devotion to her husband”
synonyms: loyalty, faithfulness, fidelity, constancy, commitment, adherence, allegiance, dedication; More

•  religious worship or observance.
“the order’s aim was to live a life of devotion”
synonyms: devoutness, piety, religiousness, spirituality, godliness, holiness, sanctity
“a life of devotion”

•  prayers or religious observances.
plural noun: devotions
synonyms: religious worship, worship, religious observance

Devotion does have some concepts borne from religion or worship but that doesn’t make it an irrelevant word for the POCUS learner or teacher. The first definition of love, loyalty, or enthusiasm captures the essence of what most of us are hoping POCUS to be for our learners. As my good friend and POCUS enthusiast, Dr. Gordy Johnson, from Portland, Oregon, says, we need to remember “our first kiss.” What was the moment that grasped us with POCUS?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely opposed to the word discipline, but it moves beyond that if we’re going to develop fully devoted clinicians in the realm of bedside ultrasound. Those that are equipped with the cognitive elements know when POCUS should be used, why it should be used, how to acquire images, and then how to clinically integrate it.

This post was originally intended as a follow-up of the AIUM webinar on the Comprehensive Hospitalist Assessment & Mentorship with Portfolios (CHAMP) Ultrasound Program with hopes to continue the conversation surrounding what makes for an effective training program. The program involved online modules, an in-person course with assessments, portfolio development, refresher training, and final assessments. The key lesson we have learned is that longitudinal training with deliberate practice of POCUS skills with individualized performance feedback is critical for skill acquisition. However, the intangible pieces of how people continued to scan was developing an enthusiasm and love surrounding ultrasound by seeing its impact in the marketplace. As they were continuing to scan, their patients, their students, the many nursing staff were partnering in a stronger way with this diagnostic powerhouse in their hands.

With all this, I cannot help but be optimistic when I see the commitment of many in the POCUS movement already. I would urge all of us to evaluate how we develop devotion in ultrasound, how to tap into the dynamism of the POCUS movement coming up the pipeline with our medical students and residents. They have the potential to disrupt inertia and be an impactful force to integrate POCUS more into internal medicine and hospital medicine.

 

If you are an ultrasound educator, how do you inspire devotion? What are some of your best practices surrounding training in POCUS? Which do you think is most important: discipline or devotion? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Benji K. Mathews, MD, FACP, SFHM, is the Ultrasound Director of the Department of Hospital Medicine at HealthPartners in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Ultrasound in Medical Education: How Far We’ve Come

Point of care ultrasound was an obscure elective during my medical school years, a poorly-attended vacation elective to fill the free time between the match and the first day of residency. At the time, the 2 Emergency Medicine attendings directing the course volunteered an expertise, which endured widespread disregard; their craft persisted, unappreciated by the department and hospital. These faculty had a unique passion, a vision of a paradigm shift in medicine that would save more lives, make better decisions, and improve overall care.

I was initially skeptical of that vision. When they expressed excitement over our new, $50,000 Micromaxx (considered a bargain at the time), it sounded to me like the typical exorbitant medical expense with marginal benefit, peddled by savvy sales rmorrow_image1eps. Then we caught our first tamponade in cardiac arrest during a pulse check and I was hooked: POCUS didn’t belong as one of those obscure hobbies limited to the especially nerdy, but was a vital diagnostic and procedural tool, to be learned and disseminated. I went through residency clearly enamored with the technology. To my dismay, early in my internship, we lost our ultrasound director. It was then that I found mentors in podcasts and through the Free and Open Access Medical Education (FOAMed) community.

By my final year of residency, nurses and attendings were calling on me to pause my work in my assigned pod to travel to theirs to help with US-guided procedures. Having identified the need, I started teaching residents and nurses US-guided procedures. The barriers to education were high-quality simulation phantoms, machine access, and educational time. Time we could volunteer, and for machines we begged and borrowed, but for phantoms, we hit a wall. I searched for answers in the young community of FOAMed but found few workable alternatives to the hundred-to-thousand-dollar commercial phantoms. It was at this impasse that I found inspiration from Mythbusters’ use of ballistics gel. I experimented with ballistics gel to create my own phantom and found it morrow_dsf8521to be an effective and practical alternative to the commercial phantoms. I was approached by several companies aiming to turn this into a money-making opportunity, but I felt this information needed to be shared. This skill was too critical to keep it locked up behind a patent. Instead, with the whole-hearted spirit of FOAMed, I published guides and answered questions and gave cooking classes.

I’ve continued to follow the vision of bringing bedside ultrasound to widespread use, from residency to fellowship, and now into my role as Emergency Ultrasound Director and Director of Ultrasound Education at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville. The future is bright: the FOAMed community is large and growing; US technology is being integrated into earlier stages of medical education; and pocket machines are bringing US in closer reach of the busy clinician. Ultrasound is moving into the hands of clinicians at the bedside and becoming an extension of our physical exam, and there is a growing literature base to support this trend. Someday ultrasound will take its rightful place next to the stethoscope, and my job as an “ultrasound director” will seem as foreign a concept as “director of auscultation.” The complementary forces of FOAMed and formal medical education will bring us to this future of safer procedures and greater diagnostic accuracy, and I am excited to be a part of it.

How have you seen ultrasound medical education change? What are your favorite FOAMed resources? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Dustin Stephen Morrow, MD, RDMS, is Ultrasound Director at Greenville Health System Emergency Medicine, as well as Director of Ultrasound Education at University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville. He can be found on Twitter: @pocusmaverick.

Obsessed With Ultrasound

1. Tell us how and why you became interested in ultrasound?
During my Emergency Medicine at Mayo Clinic, I gained exposure to point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) for procedural guidance. I was immediately drawn to the hands-on and technical aspects of using ultrasound, and began advancing my use for diagnostic shihpurposes. After a few cases of diagnosing acute pathology at the bedside (AAA, free fluid, and DVT to name a few), I was hooked! Following residency, I decided to expand my ultrasound training and pursued an Emergency Ultrasound Fellowship at Yale, while also working toward obtaining my Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS) certification. Ever since I’ve adopted a liberal use of POCUS in my clinical practice, I can say without a doubt that it’s made me a better Emergency Physician, and I can’t imagine practicing without it!

2. Talk about your role as Program Director of the Emergency Ultrasound Fellowship Program at The Scarborough Hospital in Toronto.
I’m thrilled to be able to bring the skills that I’ve learned during my own EUS Fellowship training to the Emergency Medicine community in Toronto! Our team built the Fellowship Program from the ground up, and our Department went all in with the purchase of 4 additional new ultrasound machines and QPath software for archiving. I’m truly proud of what we’ve accomplished. It certainly helps that I have an extremely supportive Department Chair and 2 amazing fellows this year!

3. What prompted the writing of your book Ultrasound for the Win!?
When trying to learn more about ultrasound myself during residency, I found that there was a void in high-yield POCUS books geared toward Emergency Physicians. I found that the few textbooks that were available, while informative, could be quite dense and intimidating to read. So I decided to develop a book that I, myself, and I believe most Emergency Physicians, would appreciate — a case-based interactive and easy-to-read format that’s clinically relevant to our daily practice. It’s a book that a medical student or resident interested in POCUS can easily read and reference during an Emergency Medicine rotation.

4. What’s one thing you learned about yourself through the writing/editing process?
It’s made me realize just how obsessed I am with ultrasound! Writing and putting together the book was hard work, but also enjoyable and extremely satisfying! Seeing these real cases compiled one after another really highlights the potentially life-saving role of POCUS in medicine, and the profound difference it can make in improving patient care and outcomes.

5. What advice would you offer medical students when it comes to ultrasound?
Scan many and scan often—it’s simple; the more you practice POCUS, the better you will be at it! Also, don’t be afraid to take initiative in your own education—while some attendings may not be comfortable enough with POCUS to teach it to you, don’t let that be a deterrent to your own learning. There’s a plethora of resources available online, including Matt & Mike’s Ultrasound Podcast and Academic Life in Emergency Medicine that you can reference!

How did you become interested in ultrasound? What are your go-to resources? What book would you like to see written? Share your thoughts and ideas here and on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Jeffrey Shih, MD, RDMS, is an Emergency Physician and author of the book Ultrasound for the Win! Emergency Medicine Cases. He is Program Director of the Emergency Ultrasound Fellowship Program at The Scarborough Hospital in Toronto, Canada, and Lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. He can be reached at jeffrey.shih@utoronto.ca and on Twitter: @jshihmd

How to Obtain Focused Cardiac Ultrasound Images

My first exposure to handheld ultrasound was as a first-year medical student. I was assigned to a cardiology clinic with an attending that pioneered handheld ultrasound examinations. Watching him move from patient to patient and use ultrasound to simultaneously diagnose and teach inspired me to learn how to use ultrasound and incorporate it into my practice.

cardiac_pic2

Parasternal long axis demonstrating a dilated left ventricle.

As a budding cardiologist, examining and triaging patients with handheld ultrasound is a part of my daily work. Although handheld ultrasound and the stethoscope differ vastly in their technology, at the bedside, both are limited by the user’s interpretation of the examination findings. I have found when using handheld ultrasound, as with the stethoscope, perhaps the most important tool is “between the ears.”

The “Introduction to Focused Cardiac Ultrasound” set of lectures provide an overview to focused cardiac ultrasound views and a guide to obtain them. The main goal is to develop an understanding of the scope of focused cardiac ultrasound and to “get the heart on the screen” when scanning. The first lecture focuses on the parasternal long axis and subcostal views of the heart. In practice these views will often be the most helpful and accessible. The second lecture reviews the parasternal and subcostal views and introduces the apical views of the heart. Each lecture includes sample diagnoses.

My rationale for reviewing all the basic views of the heart is to provide a broad survey of all the windows and probe orientations. When a formal cardiac echo is ordered, these are the views and windows obtained by the sonographer. In practice with handheld ultrasound, one or two of these views can be utilized to answer the question at hand. Based on patient positioning and body habitus, however, certain windows may provide a better view of the heart.

My hope in sharing all the views in the second lecture is to not overwhelm the learner but rather provide a strong foundation in understanding the anatomical relationships of the ventricles and atria in the body and see how one window builds off the next. The views in this lecture are directly applicable to structured bedside ultrasound examinations, such as the “CLUE examination.”

At our home institution, we utilize these lectures in a continuously rolling small-group lecture series for our medical students and house staff. The cardiology fellow leads the lecture and the hands-on scanning portion, rotating every third week on the step-down cardiology unit. Overall the feedback has been positive with many of the trainees spreading the skills to other rotations. We are happy to share this resource and welcome feedback.

What resources are invaluable to you? What tools do you use to continually learn? Where do you find the information you need? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Colin Phillips, MD, is Fellow, Division of Cardiovascular Disease at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

A Word of Encouragement

One excellent online teaching tool for emergency ultrasound states that “scientists have been fascinated by the mechanism of acoustics, echoes and sound waves for many

Wake Course 5

Attendees get hands-on experience at AIUM’s Wake Forest 

centuries.”

I am not one of those scientists.

Frankly, I don’t like physics. I find it challenging to understand things I can’t see. Take gravity, for example. I know and can tell quite distinctly that it exists. The scar on my shin following a childhood attempt at flight is a faithful reminder of its existence. It still remains hard for me to understand the intricacies of this force because of its invisibility. To me, this is similar to a lot of physics concepts.

It’s therefore hilarious that I was somehow drawn to ultrasound. It must have been the enticement of being able to see more, although the ability to “see” is granted by what is unseen—ultrasound waves. The joke was definitely on me.

So how did I get here?

My journey with point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) started with a remark by a friend of mine. At the time, she was an emergency medicine resident and she told me about a trauma patient that she had performed a “FAST” on. Close to completing 3 years of Pediatric residency, I had never heard of such a thing. I remained intrigued with the idea of quick decision-making scans performed by the provider actively involved in the patient care. Who wouldn’t want this given the chance? The challenge of course lies in acquiring the knowledge.

Things now got interesting.

During my Pediatric Emergency Medicine (PEM) fellowship, I sought to learn more about POCUS. My initiation was not spectacular to say the least. The words of my instructors bounced off the surface of my brain with very little being absorbed. This would have been OK if I were an ultrasound machine. It wasn’t very good when trying to learn how to obtain and interpret ultrasound images however.

By the second and third lesson, I was convinced that I would never learn ultrasound. But as in the majority of love stories, persistence paid off.

Gradually my images changed from what resembled a 1970s television screen after midnight to recognizable structures. By the end of my PEM fellowship, I had acquired a few rudimentary skills. I took an opportunity to pursue an Emergency ultrasound fellowship immediately after my PEM fellowship and the dread of my early ultrasound learning days came upon me again. So many applications, so little understanding.

One day as I scanned a patient, “Eureka!” I finally understood the parasternal long axis. There was hope for me yet.

How did I finally get here?

  1. Persistence – The old adage holds true. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.When the words or explanation didn’t make sense, I would try a video (YouTube has some great videos). I would get models of structures to understand the anatomy and relate to them to my scans. I would seek out others to explain concepts in different ways to help my understanding.
  2. Memorization – This provided a foundation and served as the means to the end. When using POCUS, there is a lot to remember and you have to put in the necessary study time.

Finally, I was able to understand what was going on and what the picture was telling or NOT telling me. I also learned not to beat myself up for not understanding everything. That is what colleagues, mentors, online resources, and practice are for.

I now understand a lot of POCUS–more than I ever imagined or thought possible. I didn’t let my dislike of physics or the challenge of image recognition stop me. I figured if others could learn this, I should at least give it a decent shot. And that’s what I ask of those I teach or anyone interested in learning.

What would you tell someone starting to learn ultrasound? What aspect was most difficult for you? How did you overcome it? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Atim Uya, MD, is the Point of Care Ultrasound Director, Division of Emergency Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Diego/Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego, California.