Ultrasound in undergraduate medical education: a systematic and critical review

Zac Feilchenfeld*, Tim Dornan, Cynthia Whitehead, Ayelet Kuper

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review

51 Citations (Web of Science)

Abstract

ContextThe use of point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) in clinical care is growing rapidly and advocates have recently proposed the integration of ultrasound into undergraduate medical education (UME). The evidentiary basis for this integration has not been evaluated critically or systematically.

ObjectivesWe conducted a critical and systematic review framed by the rationales enumerated in academic publications by advocates of ultrasound in UME.

MethodsThis research was conducted in two phases. First, the dominant discursive rationales for the integration of ultrasound in UME were identified from an archive of 403 academic publications using techniques from Foucauldian critical discourse analysis (CDA). We then sought empirical evidence in support of these rationales, using a critical synthesis methodology also adapted from CDA.

ResultsWe identified four dominant discursive rationales with different levels of evidentiary support. The use of ultrasound was not demonstrated to improve students' understanding of anatomy. The benefit of ultrasound in teaching physical examination was inconsistent and rests on minimal evidence. With POCUS, students' diagnostic accuracy was improved for certain pathologies, but findings were inconsistent for others. Finally, the rationale that ultrasound training in UME will improve the quality of patient care was difficult to evaluate.

ConclusionsOur analysis has shown that the frequently repeated rationales for the integration of ultrasound in UME are not supported by a sufficient base of empirical research. The repetition of these dominant discursive rationales in academic publications legitimises them and may preclude further primary research. As the value of clinical ultrasound use by medical students remains unproven, educators must consider whether the associated financial and temporal costs are justified or whether more research is required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-378
Number of pages13
JournalMedical Education
Volume51
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017

Keywords

  • HAND-CARRIED ULTRASOUND
  • OF-CARE ULTRASOUND
  • TEACHING PHYSICAL-EXAMINATION
  • CRITICAL DISCOURSE ANALYSIS
  • FOCUSED CARDIAC ULTRASOUND
  • BEDSIDE ULTRASOUND
  • TRANSTHORACIC ECHOCARDIOGRAPHY
  • CLINICAL EXAMINATION
  • PATIENT OUTCOMES
  • RANDOMIZED-TRIAL

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