Those of us that have been in the business for a while have witnessed the growth of cardiovascular ultrasound from a diagnostic tool that many were skeptical about into a first line choice in the diagnosis of cardiovascular disease. Many would say, and rightfully so, that cardiovascular ultrasound has become an overused tool. Studies are often ordered because they are part of a preprinted admission sheet or because referring doctors just do not know what other tests to order. This line of thought was the driving force behind the development and implementation of appropriate use criteria. With all that said, as sonographers we all know the importance and utility of cardiovascular ultrasound when it is ordered appropriately.
Many of you may not be aware of ASE’s participation in a campaign launched by our colleagues at the American Institute of Ultrasound Medicine (AIUM) to promote the use of ultrasound as the first choice in diagnostic medical imaging. While that initiative encompasses all of ultrasound imaging, it has me thinking about cardiovascular ultrasound and its potential role as a first line of imaging for cardiovascular disease. Making cardiovascular ultrasound the “first choice” as an imaging modality puts a lot of responsibility on us to provide our interpreting physicians with complete studies comprised of high quality images that can be confidently interpreted, leading to rapid diagnosis and treatment of our patients.
In my opinion, there are at least 5 things we can do to ensure that the studies we perform are complete and high quality. Our ultimate goal is to do the study right the first time to prevent the need for repeating the study or using another modality. The list is certainly not all inclusive and I’m sure you could add to it in your labs.
Our career field is in a constant state of flux. In order to keep up with the changing trends and technology in cardiovascular ultrasound, we have to keep educating ourselves. ASE recommends that education programs become programmatically accredited and that sonographers be credentialed in their appropriate areas. Beyond that we have to keep seeking out classes, lectures, and publications that outline and describe evolving technology. The ASE is the premier source of education for cardiovascular ultrasound and has numerous CME offerings each year, many of which are free to members.