According to the recent European Federation of Societies for Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology (EFSUMB) Position Statement on Dermatologic Ultrasound,1 dermatologic ultrasound is the application of ultrasound to the diagnosis of skin and appendages (hair and nails) diseases, as well as their healthy state, and cosmetic alterations.
This application was born as a necessity to answer challenges in dermatology that could not be addressed with superficial exploration methods such as clinical inspection, wood lamp, or dermoscopy, which mainly offer 2D views of the skin. The possibility of adding a third dimension (depth) and even a 4th one (with Doppler or dynamic explorations) with ultrasound makes dermatologic ultrasound a new way to go from guessing what’s happening below the surface to “seeing” what is really happening.
During my years of clinical practice incorporating ultrasound in dermatology, I have heard some questions that always seem to arise in meetings. These are some of them:
What are the technical requirements for quality dermatologic ultrasound?
Although equipment with 70 MHz can be helpful to elucidate very concrete aspects of skin pathology, most questions and clinical situations in dermatology can be addressed today with high-quality conventional equipment above 15 MHz with color Doppler.
Apart from high-quality equipment, having a deep knowledge of dermatology, basic ultrasound, and its physical principles is the key to performing appropriate explorations in dermatologic ultrasound.
Which are the main fields of dermatologic ultrasound?
The fields at the forefront of dermatologic ultrasound are skin oncology, inflammatory skin diseases, and cosmetic dermatology.
How can dermatologic ultrasound help us dermatologist in skin oncology?
Skin cancer is the most frequent cancer in the human body. Most malignant skin tumor prognosis and treatment rely on depth and structural invasion, therefore, dermatologic ultrasound is an essential tool compared with MRI or CT in these kinds of evaluations, mainly because of its higher resolution and availability.
Is dermatologic ultrasound helpful in inflammatory skin diseases?
Deep inflammatory skin diseases such as hidradenitis suppurativa and morphea and sclerosing diseases usually do not have clear superficial expression. Dermatologic ultrasound is a key tool for in-depth evaluation of the inflammatory state of these diseases and is a guide for treatment and follow-up.
What are the main applications of dermatologic ultrasound in cosmetic dermatology?
Detection of dermal fillers and the complications and adverse reactions of these medical devices is essential in the management of a responsible cosmetic dermatology practice. Dermatologic ultrasound can also be an excellent tool for skin aging evaluation and anti-aging treatment evaluation.
Who is the AIUM and how can I learn Dermatologic Ultrasound from the AIUM?
The American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) is the only scientific society that hosts a very active Dermatologic Ultrasound Community, which was funded in 2015 by Ximena Wortsman together with Orlando Catalano (present vice-chair of the community), Fernando Alfageme (present chair of the community and author of this post), and Claudia Gonzalez (secretary).
This community and their members are very active in AIUM meetings, hosting several scientific and didactic sessions, and has also produced some reference papers in dermatologic ultrasound.
The AIUM has hosted several sessions and workshops in AIUM meetings in the last 5 years with the collaboration of the dermatologic ultrasound community, although a need for structured teaching and learning is still necessary for those who are interested in this subspecialty.
Dermatology is an amazing application for ultrasound and it will be key in the near future for high quality, personalized skin medicine to foster the best, responsible care for our patients.
Fernando Alfageme, MD, is a Dermatologist and Chair of the Dermatologic Ultrasound Community (AIUM) as well as Codirector of the Ultrasound Learning Centre (Dermatology) at EFSUMB.
Alfageme F, Wortsman X, Catalano O, et al. European Federation of Societies for Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology (EFSUMB) Position Statement on Dermatologic Ultrasound. Ultraschall Med. 2020 May 7. Online ahead of print. doi: 10.1055/a-1161-8872.