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Open Access Research article

Anatomy teaching with portable ultrasound to medical students

Meenakshi Swamy1* and Roger F Searle2

Author affiliations

1 School of Medicine and Health, The Holliday Building, Durham University Queen's Campus, University Boulevard, Stockton on Tees, TS17 6BH, UK

2 Anatomy and Clinical Skills, School of Medical Sciences Education Development, The Medical School, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4HH, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Medical Education 2012, 12:99  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-99

Published: 22 October 2012

Abstract

Background

Medical students as future clinicians will apply their anatomy knowledge in medical imaging. There are various radiological resources available for the medical students to learn anatomy and contextualise it to the clinical setting. Ultrasound is a safe and non- invasive imaging procedure commonly used in clinical practice. This study aimed to use portable ultrasound and evaluate its impact as an adjunct to cadaveric anatomy teaching together with cross sectional anatomy images and line diagrams.

Methods

Ultrasound teaching was incorporated into upper limb and lower limb anatomy practical dissecting room sessions. The number of medical students who participated was 121 students from the year 2008 - 2009 and 94 students from the year 2009- 2010. The students were divided into groups of 15-20. Initially ultrasound demonstration was carried out on a volunteer and then the students were given the opportunity to use the ultrasound and identify normal anatomical structures visualized on images. For the students in the year 2009- 2010, ultrasound teaching was supplemented with cross sectional anatomy images and line diagrams. Questionnaires were distributed with seven questions rated using four point Likert scale and free text. Qualitative data was analysed using 2- proportion Z test and Fischer's exact test.

Results

The number of students in the 2009-2010 year group who were confident in interpreting ultrasound images increased significantly when compared to the 2008-2009 year group of students. The majority of students were able to identify structures like bone, muscles and blood vessels on ultrasound images. There was a significant increase in the number of students who found the ultrasound teaching useful and also those who regarded ultrasound to have improved understanding of anatomy considerably.

Conclusions

Ultrasound acts as a useful adjunct to teach anatomy in a clinical context to medical students. The use of cross sectional anatomy images and line diagrams together can aid ultrasound image orientation of structures during these sessions. Early exposure to this imaging technology may prime students for later encounters with ultrasound during clinical practice.