Novel and flexible ultrasound simulation with smartphones and tablets in fetal echocardiography

Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2021 Jun 4;1-11. doi: 10.1007/s00404-021-06102-x. Online ahead of print.


Purpose: Evaluation of a novel ultrasound-simulation-app for training fetal echocardiography as a possible useful addition for students, residents and specialist doctors. Furthermore, comparison to a conventional learning-method with special attention on orientation and recognition of physiological structures.

Methods: Prospective two-arm study with the participation of 226 clinical students. 108 students were given an extract from a textbook on fetal echocardiography (PDF-group, n = 108) for 30 min to study. 118 students were able to use the new ultrasound-simulator-app (Simulator-group, n = 118) to learn for 30 min. The knowledge of the students was examined both before and after the learning-period by having them identify sonographic structures in videos using single-choice selection.

Results: There were no significant differences between the two groups regarding age (p = 0.87), gender (p = 0.28), and the number of previously performed ultrasound-examinations (p = 0.45). In the Simulator-group, there was a significantly higher learning effect regarding the proportion of students with an increase of correct answers in the video test examination (p = 0.005). At the end of learning, the students in the Simulator-group needed significantly less time to display the structures in the app's simulation (median initially 10.9 s vs. 6.8 s at the end; p < 0.001).

Conclusions: The novel ultrasound-simulation-app seems to be a useful addition and improvement to ultrasound training. Previous difficulties such as simultaneously having patients, ultrasound-machines, and professors at disposal can thus be avoided. This means that another important step towards remote learning can be taken, which has been proven increasingly essential lately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: Fetal echocardiography; Medical education; Portable ultrasound simulation; Ultrasound education; Ultrasound simulator.