COLUMBIA, Mo. Diagnostic ultrasounds are the most widely used medical tests in the world. Though the technology is more than 50 years old, scientists continue to discover new uses for it, ranging from more targeted cancer treatments to liposuction. As the technology becomes more complex, a sonographer's skill level is even more important. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri may have found one of the keys to becoming a successful sonographer: spatial ability.
Doug Clem, clinical assistant professor of MU's diagnostic ultrasound program in the MU School of Health Professions, led the study of ultrasound students' spatial abilities. The study is the first to show how students' spatial abilities correlated to their results on scanning proficiency tests. Spatial ability is the ability to process and understand physical relationships among objects. This is important in sonography because ultrasounds are not like other medical tests, such as x-rays or CT scans. A sonographer cannot capture the entire object at once, but instead must collect a series of images and assemble them into a logical sequential order for a physician to read.
"It's operator dependent," said Sharlette Anderson, clinical instructor of MU's diagnostic ultrasound program. "I can scan the entire liver, but I'm not giving the radiologist images of every millimeter of the liver. I am giving him specific images and anything that I see that looks abnormal. If I miss an abnormality, the radiologist never sees it and the diagnosis is missed."
The study tested first-year ultrasound students' spatial abilities prior to any major coursework. Then, scientists tracked students' results on standard scanning proficiency tests over two semesters. Initially, the study showed little association between spatial ability and scanning proficiency. However, by the end of the academic year, students with greater spatial abilities were much more likely to have scored high on
|Contact: Christian Basi|
University of Missouri-Columbia