The use of a probe stabilizer to reduce musculoskeletal overload of ultrasound operators in routine diagnostic echocardiographic imaging

J Ultrason. 2019 Nov;19(78):193-197. doi: 10.15557/JoU.2019.0029. Epub 2019 Sep 30.


Introduction: Echocardiography is essential in the evaluation of patients with cardiovascular disease. Repetitive movements, however, expose ultrasound operators to a high risk of musculoskeletal strain injuries. Aim: We investigated to what extent a probe stabilizer could reduce repetitive movements. Materials and methods: The study population consisted of 31 male patients referred for routine transthoracic echocardiography. A good apical acoustic window was prerequisite for inclusion. Standard apical views and measurements were first recorded without using the probe stabilizer. Afterwards, the same apical views and measurements were acquired with utilization of the probe stabilizer. During the entire procedure, shoulder abduction and muscle activity of right forearm flexor and extensor muscles were recorded. To this purpose, an EMG-sensor was attached to the right lower arm and a gyroscope to the right shoulder blade. Results: Extreme right arm abduction (>30˚) occurred in 58% of the time with use of the stabilizer and in 98% of the time without (p <0.01). Activity of right forearm extensor muscles was 42% with and 60% without stabilizer (p = 0.04). For the flexor muscles these percentages were 47% and 87%, respectively (p <0.01). Use of the stabilizer did not affect the time needed for image acquisition (308s versus 309s, respectively, p = 0.46). Conclusions: This study demonstrated that the use of a stabilizer during acquisition of apical views in routine transthoracic echocardiography reduces the total time of shoulder abduction and the use of the right forearm muscles, while acquisition time was not affected.

Keywords: echocardiography; musculoskeletal pain; technological innovations.