The Use of Ultrasound in Educational Settings: What Should We Consider When Implementing this Technique for Visualisation of Anatomical Structures?

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2019;1156:1-11. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-19385-0_1.


Ultrasound is a well-established medical imaging technique with pioneering work conducted by Professor Ian Donald and his colleagues at the University of Glasgow, from the mid-1950s onwards, in terms of introducing it as a diagnostic tool in the field of obstetrics and gynaecology. Since then, ultrasound has been extensively used in clinical and research settings. There are few imaging techniques that have undergone such a fast and thriving evolution since their development. Nowadays, diagnostic ultrasound benefits from two-dimensional (2D), three-dimensional (3D), four-dimensional (4D), and a variety of Doppler modes with technologically advanced transducers (probes) producing images of high anatomical fidelity. In the future, there may even be a place for ultrasound in molecular imaging allowing for visualisation at the microscale. Ultrasound is characterised by real-time non-invasive scanning, relative ease of administration, and lack of ionising radiation. All of these features, make ultrasound an appealing option in educational settings for learning topographic anatomy and potentially enhancing future clinical practice for vocational learners. Sophisticated, but relatively inexpensive, portable handheld devices have also contributed to point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) becoming the norm for bedside and pre-hospital scanning. It has been argued that ultrasound will become the next stethoscope for healthcare professionals. For this to become a reality, however, training is required on increasing familiarity with knobology, correct use of the machine and transducers, and accurate interpretation of anatomy followed by identification of pathologies. The above require incorporation of ultrasound teaching in undergraduate curricula, outwith the realm of opportunistic bedside learning, accompanied by consideration of ethical topics such as the management of incidental findings and careful evaluation of its pedagogical impact cross-sectionally and longitudinally.

Keywords: Incidental findings; Medicine; Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS); Ultrasound; Undergraduate curriculum.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Anatomy* / education
  • Anatomy* / trends
  • Curriculum* / trends
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate* / trends
  • Health Personnel / education
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Ultrasonography* / history
  • Ultrasonography* / trends