Is the Radiologist In-house Today? Optimizing Ultrasound in the Age of Teleradiology

My dilemma: I am a radiologist at a pediatric hospital with multiple satellite ultrasound sites. Though most ultrasounds can be performed at the satellites, a small subset of advanced ultrasounds are only scheduled at our main hospital where a radiologist is available to scan. Recently, a family expected to schedule a complex scan at our satellite location near their home, so they understandably had questions when they were told to drive 2 hours to the main hospital instead. Is the quality of ultrasound services different? Would the radiologist scan if they traveled to our main hospital? Could they get the same study at a local non-pediatric, small community imaging center? They wanted answers! It was challenging to explain why it was worth their time to make such a long drive to get a “better” study. This led me to ask, what is the right answer at a time when teleradiology is commonplace?

Challenges and Potential Solutions of Teleradiology in Ultrasound

1. Retaining Clinical Context

Problem: Typically, radiologists interpret exams solely based on the images. However, additional patient history that was not in the original order and physical exam findings can be of tremendous value. For example, a sonographer might image a cutaneous vascular lesion compatible with a hemangioma. If a pediatric radiologist were present to ask additional questions, they would learn that the hemangioma only just appeared in the 2-month-old patient a couple of weeks ago, is rapidly growing, and is one of multiple cutaneous lesions concerning for infantile hemangiomas. Additionally, they could look at the color of the lesion and see if it blanches upon compression. Such additional historical and physical information warrants a recommendation in the ultrasound report for an abdominal ultrasound to assess for hepatic hemangioma involvement. If this clinical context is lost, then the full value and specificity of the superficial ultrasound could be lost as well.

Solution: If a radiologist is not present in-person for scanning or image review, the sonographer must know what questions to ask and what additional information might be helpful to the radiologist. Sonographers can add extra history and physical exam findings directly into the PACS technician notes, via institutional communication tools like Microsoft Teams, or on scanned worksheets. A radiologist might even talk directly with the family over the phone or ask the sonographer to include a picture of the patient in the medical record of the patient.

2. Optimizing Image Quality

Problem: The ability of the radiologist to provide image quality control is diminished when working remotely. There is more responsibility on the sonographer to optimize imaging and to recognize pitfalls independently. To this point, for example, consider a sonographer imaging a joint with concern for effusion and septic arthritis. However, she may not realize that the gain was set too low. Cartilage would look anechoic like joint fluid instead of the normal speckled hypoechoic appearance in cases such as this. Therefore, the images would look like there was a joint effusion when in fact there was no joint effusion at all.

Solution: Radiologists must provide feedback, ideally in real time, to sonographers. Standardized protocols, as well as in-person on-the-job training with experienced sonographers and radiologists, are also needed for sonographers to function independently at remote sites. In this case, the sonographer should ask a radiologist to review the images in real time so they can identify such mistakes, affording the sonographer opportunity to rescan the patient before they left.

3. Understanding Variability in Practices Between Institutions

Problem: Teleradiologists read for multiple sites, all with unique workflows and varying levels of sonography expertise. As a pediatric radiologist, I read pediatric studies from both pediatric and adult hospitals. There is a wide variety in the experience of the sonographers, as I learned recently when I opened a pyloric ultrasound exam only to realize that the sonographer had incorrectly imaged the gastroesophageal junction instead of the pylorus. I subsequently learned that this site did not have pediatric sonographers or pediatric sonography training.

An image of the gastroesophageal (GE) junction instead of the pylorus. The arrow points to the GE junction with gastroesophageal reflux during the exam, which can be mistaken for transit through a normal pylorus. Proximity to the spine (S) and the aorta (A) confirms the gastroesophageal junction is being imaged.

Solution: As a radiology team, we must provide additional resources to support sonographers if they are to assume more responsibility. At my institution, radiologists are available for questions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to sonographers before, during, and after image acquisition. Additionally, we provide a free, CME-accredited, internet-based didactic series for optimizing pediatric imaging technique. We also solicit topic ideas from our affiliate institutions so that we can elevate the quality of imaging at all sites. When one person or one site has a particular ultrasound question, there are often many others with the same struggle.

After feedback and instruction between the radiologist and the sonographer, a sonographer can correctly identify a normal pylorus (arrow), which is confirmed by the adjacent duodenal bulb (D) and gallbladder (G).

In conclusion, teleradiology in ultrasound is here to stay. Our responsibility going forward is to optimize it, support our sonographers as they become more independent, and understand that while we as radiologists may not physically be there, there are many technological advances that we can leverage to optimize imaging.

Dr Lauren May, MD, is a pediatric radiologist at Nemours Children’s Health in Wilmington, DE. Her primary interests are in ultrasound and medical education. She can be contacted by email,

Interested in reading more about ultrasound in pediatrics? Check out these posts from the Scan:

One More Reason to Advocate for Contrast-Enhanced Ultrasound in Children: No Current Shortage of Ultrasound Contrast Agents

Contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) is a valuable tool to evaluate the pediatric patient as it offers many of the diagnostic benefits of other imaging modalities such as CT or MRI but avoids potential risks including radiation exposure and sedation. Furthermore, CEUS is portable and can be performed at the patient’s bedside, which is particularly important in critically ill children where transportation to the radiology department may be difficult. Currently, in the United States, only one ultrasound contrast agent is FDA-approved for use in pediatric patients for intravesical use for contrast-enhanced voiding urosonography (ceVUS) and for intravenous use for characterization of liver lesions and cardiac indications. However, off-label use has greatly expanded the applications of this technology to the betterment of patients.

Grayscale (left) and contrast-enhanced (right) ultrasound of the left kidney in a 3-year-old boy incidentally found to have a renal lesion on prior spine MRI. Images demonstrate a predominately cystic complex lesion (circle). On contrast-enhanced images, the cystic components are clearly demonstrated with faint enhancement of thin septations allowing characterization of the lesion as a minimally complex renal cyst (Bosniak type 2F). Normal diffuse homogenous enhancement is seen in the remainder of the left renal parenchyma (arrows). In this case, the use of contrast-enhanced ultrasound for lesion characterization prevented radiation exposure, which would be required for CT, and sedation, which would be required for MRI.

Multiple studies have shown the feasibility and value of CEUS in a wide variety of applications including evaluation of the neonatal brain in hypoxic-ischemic injury, intraoperative characterization of brain lesions for real-time assessment of resection margins, initial and follow-up evaluations in the setting of solid abdominal organ trauma, quantification of femoral head perfusion before and after developmental hip dysplasia reduction, and intraoperative ceVUS to visualize vesicoureteral reflux and assess the efficacy of bladder bulking agent injections and possible requirement for additional surgical procedures. This is to name just a few!

Additionally, CEUS has been utilized by Interventional Radiology departments in many troubleshooting situations including evaluation of vascular access/thrombosis, identifying solid tumor components for biopsy, visualizing non-solid abscess contents for accurate drain placement, and lymph node injection for evaluation of the lymphatic drainage pathways. Again, this is a limited list of uses! Essentially, any diagnostic or therapeutic situation that would benefit from real-time bedside evaluation of organs, lesions, vessels (or anything in the human body) could potentially benefit from CEUS.

Despite the widespread applications of CEUS, few centers regularly employ this technique or only use it in select cases. Concerns about contrast agent side effects, including anaphylaxis, have been consistently demonstrated to be minimal and lower than other contrast agents routinely utilized in imaging studies and the safety of ultrasound contrast agents has been continually proven over time. While appropriate monitoring and preparation for severe reactions is mandatory, this is not dissimilar to safety practices with CT and MRI contrast agents. Speaking of which, current CT contrast shortages and uncertain implications of gadolinium deposition with MRI contrast agents further bolster support for using CEUS as a first-line imaging modality.

Even after explaining the relatively high benefit-to-risk ratio in this patient population, advocates for CEUS continue to find resistance to broader use. Some obstacles to wider implementation include staff training and requirement of a radiologist during the CEUS, which is currently standard practice. Select institutions offer CEUS training courses for technologists and physicians to familiarize them with technique and workflow management. Like any new procedure, education, experience, and departmental support allow increasing confidence and ease of implementation. Despite adequate technologist and nursing staff familiarity, in this time of ever-growing imaging study volumes and hospital staffing shortages, requiring the physical attendance of a radiologist for a CEUS examination is less than ideal. However, this allows valuable support for the technologist and for the radiologist to communicate directly with the patient and family providing an immeasurable face-to-face interaction that cannot be replicated in the reading room.

To summarize, CEUS is an incredibly valuable tool in evaluating children with vast clinical applications, the list of which continues to grow over time. If you have a patient and ask yourself “could CEUS add information with high benefit-to-risk ratio,” the answer is often “yes.” But lack of widespread awareness and implementation lead to clinicians never asking that question or even considering the potential benefit of CEUS in pediatric patients. A growing community of Pediatric Diagnostic and Interventional Radiologists would like to change that in the future.

If you are using CEUS at your institution, what kind of scenarios (standard and unique) have you found CEUS to be helpful? If you are not using CEUS at your institution, what do you see as current obstacles? What would be required or helpful for you to implement in your practice?

Ryne Didier, MD, is a Pediatric Radiologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (@CHOPRadiology). Her clinical and research interests include prenatal imaging and emerging ultrasound imaging techniques and applications.

Interested in learning more about pediatric ultrasound? Check out the following posts from the Scan:

SLOW DOWN: Take Your Time in Diagnosing PCOS in Adolescents

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the most common ovulation disorder among adult reproductive-age women. This blog post will discuss the latest recommendations, which state that we should wait about 8 years after menarche to make this diagnosis in adolescents!

PCOS is defined by the Rotterdam Criteria as 2 of the following: irregular menstrual cycles (or absent cycles), hirsutism (clinically as acne or male-patterned hair growth or elevated androgens), and polycystic-appearing ovaries on ultrasound, also known as PCO morphology. In addition, other disorders that may look like PCOS need to be ruled out (thyroid disease, hyperprolactinemia, adrenal disorders). The two main areas where patients or providers have difficulty are how cycle lengths are determined and PCO morphology.

In gynecology and infertility, we see a number of women with irregular menstrual cycles. Irregular menstrual cycles are defined as cycles occurring more frequently than every 21 days or less frequently than every 35 days from the beginning of one cycle to the beginning of the next cycle (cycle day 1 to cycle day 1). Some patients get confused and count from the last day of bleeding to the first day of the next period, which artificially makes the cycle seem short. It is good to keep a menstrual calendar (a regular calendar where each day of bleeding is marked with an “X” and review it over a couple of months). It is easy to count the number of days from the beginning of one menstrual cycle to the beginning of the next when counting from the first “X” of one cycle to the first “X” of the next.

One manner of identifying polycystic ovaries is by the volume: If one or both ovaries has a volume of more than 10 cm3 then that meets the criteria for a polycystic ovary on ultrasound.

The other method of identification is counting and measuring follicles. Counting antral follicles, which are follicles that measure as less than 10 mm in diameter, in a polycystic-appearing ovary can be difficult. First, check to see if there are any cysts in the ovary (any large, space-occupying mass greater than 10 mm). If cysts larger than 10 mm are present, then the antral follicle counts and the ovarian volumes will be distorted. Typically, it is easiest to measure the antral follicles and ovarian volume in the early follicular phase, or cycle days 1–5 (where cycle day 1 is the first day of the menstrual period). In this early part of the menstrual cycle, there should not be a dominant follicle growing yet so the ovary commonly has only small antral follicles at this time in the cycle.

Originally, polycystic-appearing ovaries were described as having antral follicles lined up in the periphery of the ovary or a “pearl necklace” sign. In PCOS, the stroma of the ovary produces the androgens, and patients with PCOS tend to have a greater stromal area. However, the Rotterdam criteria did not use these descriptions in defining a polycystic-appearing ovary. Instead, the Rotterdam criteria state a volume or an antral follicle count when there are no cysts. The antral follicle count was initially described in the Rotterdam criteria as either ovary with more than 12 follicles (2–9 mm).

Unfortunately, with this number, a number of adolescents were being misdiagnosed with PCOS. Why would that be?

There are two reasons: one, when girls have menarche, the hypothalamic pituitary ovary axis is not mature and they will have irregular cycles—sometimes this irregularity lasts a couple of years. So, many adolescents were noted to have met the “irregular cycles” criterion. Second, adolescents have an excellent ovarian reserve. They should have a lot of antral follicles because they have a lot of eggs in the early part of their reproductive years. These ovaries are sometimes referred to as multi-follicular ovaries. This is a normal finding.  

Consequently, the international guideline, which has been adopted by the ESHRE (European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology) and the ASRM (American Society of Reproductive Medicine) has concluded that the number of follicles needed to meet the PCO-appearing criteria should be 20 or more antral follicles (2–9 mm) in either ovary and others recommend 25 or more antral follicles.

They all accept that an ovary larger than 10 mL would meet the criterion. In addition, they have stated that we should NOT make the diagnosis of PCOS in adolescents within 8 years of their menarche because the reproductive axis is not mature early after menarche. Others have recommended NOT using the ultrasound criteria as an independent marker in diagnosing adolescents.

In other words, adolescents will need to have evidence of hirsutism and anovulation to meet the criteria of PCOS. The general consensus is that we do not want to inappropriately place a label of PCOS on these young women. PCOS has a lot of medical sequelae such as infertility, increased risk for insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, hypertension, and many others that could unnecessarily worry the young women.

Take home message: Be SLOW to diagnose PCOS in Adolescents! 


Teede HJ, Misso ML, Costello MF, Dokras A, Laven J, Moran L, Piltonen T, Norman RJ and International PCOS Network. Recommendations form the international evidence-based guideline for the assessment and management of polycystic ovary syndrome. Hum Reprod 2018; 1–17. Doi:10.1093/humrep/dey256

Al Wattar BH, Fisher M, Bevington L, Talaulikar V, Davies M, Conway G, Yasmin E. Clinical practice guidelines on the diagnosis and management of polycystic ovary syndrome: a systematic review and quality assessment study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2021; 106(8):2436–2446.

Dumesic DA, Oberfield SE, Stener-Victorin E, Marshall JC, Laven JS, Legro RS. Scientific statement on the diagnostic criteria, epidemiology and pathophysiology, and molecular genetic of polycystic ovary syndrome. Endocrine Reviews 2015; 36(5):487–525.

Elizabeth E. Puscheck, MD, MS, MBA, FACOG, FAIUM, is a board-certified Reproductive Endocrinologist practicing with InVia Ferility and a tenured Professor at Wayne State University School of Medicine.

Pediatric Contrast-Enhanced Voiding Urosonography Tips

Contrast-enhanced voiding urosonography (ceVUS) is most commonly used to assess for vesicoureteral reflux (VUR) and anatomic abnormalities of the urethra. Like fluoroscopic voiding cystourethrography (VCUG) examinations, in ceVUS, contrast is administered into the urinary bladder, and images are obtained of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra during filling and voiding phases.

As a department, we have performed hundreds of ceVUS exams since we began clinical studies almost 7 years ago. I have learned to ask several questions before beginning each ceVUS to help the exam go smoothly.

Does the patient/family know what will happen during the ceVUS?

Ultrasound is a workhorse for pediatric imaging because of the inherent qualities of the modality: no ionizing radiation, patients in close proximity to family members, calm and darkened exam rooms, non-imposing equipment infrastructure, and (usually) the absence of sedation or anesthesia. Most of these attributes hold for ceVUS, but bladder catheterization changes the non-invasive use of US to an invasive examination. Even so, I have been amazed by the distances that families will travel to seek ceVUS in place of VCUG for their children.

Patient and family preparation is a vital first step for ceVUS. To best image the urethra and bladder base, the probe will be positioned on the lower abdomen, perineum, and over the genitals. Discussion of catheterization and probe positioning on the body in a manner appropriate for the child’s age is critical prior to beginning. Childlife specialists can help prepare the child and family as well as provide support and distraction techniques during the examination.

Right grade 3 vesicoureteral reflux in a 3-year-old girl. Sagittal dual display grayscale (on the left) and contrast mode (on the right) of the right kidney showing echogenic ultrasound contrast in the right renal collecting system with dilation of the renal pelvis and calyces.

How will the child void during the examination?

Prior to the voiding phase images during an examination on a young adult, the patient told us that she could not void in the supine position. Unprepared for that moment, we stretched the US unit power cord (and ourselves) to follow her into the adjoining restroom and image her kidneys while she sat on the commode.

A major benefit of ceVUS over VCUG is that the patient is not confined to voiding in a supine position when imaging with ultrasound. While a small percentage of children will not void during either a VCUG or ceVUS, making a plan for how they will void will set the patient up for success during the study. Absorbent pads, bedpans, urinals, training toddler seats, and full-size commodes are all options. When planned for, we often can still obtain urethral images while permitting the patient modesty through appropriate draping.

Which probe positions will be optimal for this patient?

Another benefit of ceVUS over VCUG is that the patient’s anatomy can be visualized even when there is no VUR. When obtaining pre-contrast images, you should start by determining the best window to visualize each kidney.

When VUR occurs, the kidney-ureter unit can be observed with probe positioning from the flank. This position may allow visualization of both the right and left refluxing unit in young children. A transperineal view may not only help to see the urethra but also the bladder base and ureteral insertions.

During VCUG, an imaging team may be accustomed to placing tape on the suprapubic region to secure the bladder catheter. However, US images cannot be obtained through tape. Anticipating the best view of the urethra will help avoid an inopportune tape placement, which will obscure visualization during voiding. In the bladder filling phase, the contrast is following through the catheter, which demarcates the entire course of the urethra. Practicing probe position from a suprapubic or transperineal window during bladder filling will help identify the best window to use when voiding begins. With these preliminaries in mind, we’ve had tremendous success with ceVUS at our institution.

Susan J. Back, MD, is a pediatric radiologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Interested in learning more about pediatric ultrasound? Check out the following posts from the Scan:

Ultrasound for Undescended Testicles: Tailoring Use

In the early 1980s, prenatal ultrasound imaging opened the curtains to a “real-time” view of fetal anatomy. What we saw helped limit invasive diagnosis and therapy to those that benefited our unborn patient, and taught us that patiently waiting until after delivery was often the best approach to abnormalities detected in the womb. In other words, wanting to know was no longer a good reason for pursuing an immediate answer; needing to know, to benefit the child, was the rule to follow.

So, let’s skip over 40 years of “boring” fetal diagnostics, genetic testing, treatment, surgeries, and other distractions and talk about the great mystery on everyone’s mind, the hunt for the impalpable testicle—or as I call it, “following the bouncing ball”.

Every fetal sonographer knows what a testicle nestled in the scrotum looks like and will often be required to quickly gloss over the classic image in order to avoid the unwelcome or undesired “reveal”. As depicted in the diagram below, imaging after 20 weeks may show the scrotum (B) and after 30 weeks (C) may show “ball in sac” if the rest of the child behaves. If, however, the testicle(s) are not cooperative, nobody panics.

Schematic of testicular descent under normal influences with abdominal (A) position; descent to the internal ring (B); scrotal descent with patent processus vaginalis (C); descent complete with complete regression of the gubernaculum and occlusion of processus vaginalis (D). CSL indicates cranial suspensory ligament; T, testosterone; AMH, anti-mullerian hormone; S, sertoli cells; L, leydig cells, INSL3, insulin-like factor 3; GFN, genitofemoral nerve.

But after birth, if one or both testicles fail to stare the waiting observer in the eye, or happily make themselves easily ballotable in their pocket, the alarms go off and rational processes falter. In this vacuum of clinical reason, the reflex order for an ultrasound (US) emerges and sadly obscures best care of both the child and parents. Why should you wait to order an US? Because I am a pediatric Urologist and I said so! If that answer doesn’t suffice, as it never has for me at home or office, let me try and explain.

Case 1

Both testicles are absent to examination at birth. Well, if a newborn of male appearance and yet unknown genotype has no testicles, that neonate is a girl until proven otherwise. Genetic testing will answer that and other potential questions of chromosomal gender.

The lone cry in the wilderness that ultrasound can “find” nonpalpable testes, ignores the literature that shows that in an examination, a specialist will feel the previously un-felt testicle in over 80% of children, which is equivalent to US success. Add to that the false-positive rate of 15% (generous here) where an immobile abdominal or clinically absent gonad is “found” in the groin on US and we are rapidly approaching the poster-child for unwarranted examinations. I do not deny the HUGE contribution of US to the work-up of ambiguous genitalia and intersex conditions, supplanting fluoroscopy and even MRI in many centers, but please do not confuse garden-variety “lost balls” with these more complex issues.

Case 2

The infant or child has one or no balls in their pocket on subsequent examination after birth. Referral to a specialist often comes after US, MRI, and even CT scans seeking to see “where” the ball has strayed along its path to the scrotum. MR and CT for this concern are unjustified as a result of their expense and risk exposure, so I will speak of them no further.

If we go back to our rule that imaging is done to help the child or parents, how does the pre-specialty referral US play out? If the US finds a testis, I would have found it anyway, but the US will not define whether it is retractile (normal with a reflex requiring observation, not surgery), or truly undescended, where surgery is warranted after 6 months of age.

If US fails to find a testicle, I will need to do surgery for certainty (US false negatives on intrabdominal gonad are 10%—again generous) as testicular cancer is possible in undescended testes at 5 times the rate of the general population and direct surgical inspection is as near to 100% certainty of whether a testicle exists or not, as one can get.

So, tell me, where’s the harm in noninvasive, nonpainful, nonionizing, inexpensive imaging. Well? I’m waiting. Never mind. Let me tell you.

Imagine you are a parent. Testicles are absent on US, where does your mind go? Testicles are in the inguinal canal, where does your mind go? Now remember, not because I say so; not because I am some gifted guy; but because of my training and experience, I eliminate the worry after 60 seconds in the office and reverse the concerns set in motion in over 90% of visits after imaging. I would say that’s a lot of “Google-worry-stress time” avoided, so, it is therefore worth foregoing US before the specialist exam.

Finally, in the worst-case scenario, US finds testicles, and, as a result, the primary care physician tells the parents it’s OK, and an infant is denied time-sensitive surgery to maximize testicular function and possibly decrease cancer risk simply because the “presence” was interpreted as “normal”. The US window to gonadal and urogenital anatomy is evolving and brilliant, with contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS), molecular imaging, and elastography promising even more advances. Our common goal is to have our tools create better outcomes and minimize the potential for harm.

Robert Mevorach, MD, is Chief of Pediatric Urology at the University of South Alabama, Mobile, and is Secretary of the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) Urology Community (2021–2023).

Interested in learning more about urologic ultrasound? Check out the following resources from the AIUM:

Therapy Dogs

What could be cuter and more beneficial to patients than a team of six Golden Retriever therapy dogs showing kids how to undergo procedures?

Jessie having echocardiogram-1

Therapy dog, Jessie, undergoes an echocardiogram while being comforted by ‘Mom’, who is holding her paw.

At Southampton Children’s Hospital in the UK, the therapy dogs help the pediatric patients overcome their anxiety and fear by providing support ranging from general meet-and-greet style Animal Assisted Activity visits to Animal Assisted Therapy. The therapy dogs assist in physiotherapy, speech and occupational therapy, phlebotomy services and injections, radiology investigations, and by supporting children in the anaesthetic room.

leo on mri scanner

Leo demonstrating laying down in an MRI scanner.

One of the reasons therapy dogs are so helpful is that they are nonjudgmental and take the healthcare environment in stride. They don’t cajole or persuade, and I am sure that is why the children sometimes trust them more than the people who are with them. Every parent and medical staff member is trying to get the procedure done, which is why using the dogs as a bridge between the healthcare team and the child is so very useful. As a volunteer, it has been a privilege to be able to develop this service for the hospital.

I am delighted to say that we have images and videos that enable us to assist the medical staff even when we are not there! The library of pictures and videos that the staff can show the children when they are anxious includes such things as:

  • A short film, ‘Leo goes to X-ray,’ showing therapy dog, Leo, going to the X-ray department and explaining how easy it is to have a radiology investigation, whether it is a plain film X-ray or CT/MRI scan.  (
  • A video of a therapy dog heading down to theatre after admission procedure and showing what the route to theatre looks like as well as showing the anaesthetic room.
  • As well as many adorable and helpful photos.

archie investigations collage

Archie demonstrating, from top left, a thermometer to the arm, stethoscope to the chest, SATS testing, and pulse oximitry on a paw.

You can see more in this report on yahoo! news.



Have you ever worked with therapy dogs? If so, what was your experience like? Comment below, or, AIUM members, continue the conversation on Connect, the AIUM’s online community.


Lyndsey Uglow is the Lead Animal Assisted Intervention Handler at Southampton Children’s Hospital Therapy Dogs.

POCUS in Pediatrics

Do you work in a children’s hospital? Do you perform POCUS? Do you ever wonder if other divisions in your hospital are using POCUS as well?

Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) is growing quickly across all medical specialties, including pediatrics. Within pediatrics, POCUS is being utilized in the emergency department, intensive care unit, operating room, clinic as well as on the inpatient floor. While the scope of practice may differ across sub-specialties, the issues pertaining to education, training, credentialing, equipment procurement, and workflow solutions are universal.A Abo

At Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC) in Washington, DC, we have established a hospital-wide oversight committee for POCUS, which is a multi-disciplinary effort throughout the institution. Our aim is to standardize the use of POCUS across the hospital with respect to
1) education/training/credentialing,
2) documentation/image archival, and
3) maximizing the financial benefit.

Education, Training, and Credentialing

Each division who uses POCUS should have a champion who is responsible for the education and training of both trainees and faculty within the division. Many faculty in pediatrics, and pediatric sub-specialties, were not trained in POCUS as part of their residencies and fellowships; therefore, the opportunity to learn POCUS as a faculty member is incredibly important. Once competent in POCUS, faculty should have the ability to become credentialed in POCUS. A hospital-wide POCUS initiative can promote POCUS education across divisions through collaboration. Divisions can share POCUS curriculums with one another in addition to sharing resources. For example, divisions can bring their resources together and host a hospital-wide POCUS course. Furthermore, at CNMC, we recently received a grant to establish an ultrasound simulation program, which will be incorporated into our hospital-wide simulation program.

Documentation and Image Archival

Divisions that are using point-of-care ultrasound for medical decision making or procedural guidance should be documenting their findings in the medical record and archiving the appropriate images. In an ideal world, the ultrasound images would be accessible in the medical record, along with the documentation. The ability to view the POCUS images, by all clinicians providing care, improves the flow of knowledge among clinicians and in turn, improves patient care. From a workflow standpoint, the ability to archive the images in a centralized location, with the ability to connect the images to the electronic medical record, may be better accomplished as a hospital-wide initiative.

Maximizing the Financial Benefit

Collaboration among the divisions using point-of-care ultrasound can have a financial impact as well. For instance, when purchasing ultrasound equipment, the cost per machine is lowered when purchased in bulk. Furthermore, once the infrastructure is in place with respect to credentialing as well as the ability to document and store ultrasound images, clinicians may have the ability to bill for their services.

In order to accomplish the aforementioned aims, it is crucial to have hospital-wide support. To that end, we have strong partnerships with other clinical divisions, such as Radiology and Cardiology, who share their ultrasound expertise with the POCUS community. Furthermore, we have established relationships with other groups as well, such as information technology, purchasing, legal, biomed, and credentialing.

Are you interested in doing something similar at your institution? Wondering where to start? One suggestion is to send out a survey to all the division chiefs to better understand if POCUS is currently being used (or will be used in the future) in their respective divisions. Be sure to ask if the division has a POCUS champion. From there, plan a meeting with all the champions and start a discussion on how to improve POCUS at your institution. For a resource, check out the following reference.

Strony R, Marin JR, Bailitz J, et al. Systemwide clinical ultrasound program development: an expert consensus model. West J Emerg Med. 2018; 19:649–653.


Do you work in a children’s hospital? Do you perform POCUS? Do you ever wonder if other divisions in your hospital are using POCUS as well? Comment below, or, AIUM members, continue the conversation on Connect, the AIUM’s online community.


Alyssa Abo, MD, FAAP, FACEP, is Director of Clinical Ultrasound in Emergency Medicine, and Chair of the Hospital Oversight Committee for Point-of-Care Ultrasound at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC, as well as Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, DC.

The Future of Point-of-Care Ultrasound in Pediatric Emergency Medicine

Pediatrics entices practitioners with its focus on treating illness in the youngest patients, for long-term outcomes of future growth and development. When I reflect on my own journey through Pediatrics and Pediatric Emergency Medicine, helping patients in real-time through providing the best quality care given limited information, drew me to Pediatric Emergency Medicine.

Lianne Profile FinalPediatric Emergency Medicine (PEM) focuses on providing acute care to patients from the newest newborns to teenagers. With this breadth of ages comes differing pathology, physiology, and of course differences in relative and absolute size. Integration of point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) into PEM practice offers the clinician an added tool to provide the best possible care. Children are ideal patients for POCUS scanning as they often have slimmer body habitus, fewer comorbidities, and there is increasing interest in limiting ionizing radiation amongst all patients, especially the very young.

POCUS offers direct visualization for procedures such as endotracheal tube airway confirmation, central-line insertion, and intravenous and intraosseous access. Utilizing this clinical adjunct allows for accuracy in nerve block administration, reducing the volume used of local anesthetic and decreasing the need for systemic sedation. Visualizing fractures following reduction and assessing joints and soft tissue infections prior to decision of incision and drainage or aspiration can all be achieved using POCUS.

Because our patients vary in size, optimizing planning prior to starting procedures can help to maximize success. Risk in pediatric procedures is heightened due to variable sizing, risking too-deep insertion of needles and endotracheal tubes. Direct visualization helps to support the provider in making safe choices.

Beyond procedures, POCUS allows PEM providers to optimize resuscitation, through real-time monitoring of volume status, cardiac function, and pulmonary edema. Reassessment throughout resuscitation adds additional information to vital signs and end-organ markers as patients are treated.

As machines become increasingly accurate at more portable sizes, and as cloud storage is increasingly popular among organizations, the future of POCUS offers providers along the care-continuum the opportunity to share information and images. My hope for the future of acute POCUS would be to have pre-hospital POCUS, emergency POCUS, consultative radiology imaging, and follow-up POCUS imaging in community clinics on an integrated system allowing for shared images and progressive monitoring for long-standing conditions.

The future of POCUS is bright as innovation and technology disruption move ultrasound outside of the walls of the hospital, placing transducers in the hands of those at the bedside from the helicopter to the remote health clinic. For countries such as Canada, increased portability means increasing access for those populations most at risk of health inequity, those living in the far North and remote regions of my country, who have limited access to urban care. POCUS with added portability and technological integration can help improve access, and shared decision making between urban centers and remote regions with patient safety and privacy as a priority.

I’m excited to see where POCUS integration moves in the course of the rest of my medical career, as I look forward to being an advocate for access and clinical education in addition to being an expert that maintains clinical accountability, safety, and privacy. The promotion of these critical pillars will help determine the success of the POCUS-empowered clinical experience.

Do you use point-of-care ultrasound in pediatric practice? If so, how has it helped you? Is there another medical field you think should use ultrasound more? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Lianne McLean, MB BCh, BAO, FRCPC, is Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto; and Staff Physician and Chair of the Council of Informatics & Technology in the Division of Emergency Medicine at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada.

Flying Samaritans, the Seed to Pediatric Point-of-Care Ultrasound

There are some experiences in life that seem to have a tremendous impact on the person you become, and the career path you decide to take. When I started working with the Flying Samaritans in medical school, little did I know that it would change the trajectory of my career.

Kids from El Testerazo Mexico

The kids I fell in love with in El Testerazo, holding the pictures I had taken and shared with them. They came by even if they weren’t sick. Of note, they are now in their 20s with families of their own.

Since the UC Irvine School of Medicine was so close to the USA-Mexico border, the UC Irvine Flying Samaritans chapter was actually a driving chapter. Each month we drove down to El Testerazo, Mexico, to give medical care and medications to an underserved community. I immediately fell in love with the community and the children of El Testerazo, Mexico. They would all laugh at my then broken high school-level Spanish but would appreciate my trying. There was also something about the group of undergraduates (who ran the clinic), medical students, residents, and attending physicians who volunteered their time there that brought back the humanity to medicine. The experience was challenging and rewarding at the same time—to work with limited resources, but to become a trusted member of their community was priceless. Each time I went to the “Flying Sams” clinic, I remembered why I went into medicine in the first place.

During my time with the “Flying Sams,” I worked with a then Emergency Medicine resident, Chris Fox. When he told me he was going to Chicago to do a 1-year Emergency Ultrasound fellowship, I thought he was crazy.

Old ultrasound machine

The ancient beast of an ultrasound machine that we had in the “Flying Sams” clinic.

Not only was he leaving sunny Southern California, but he was going to spend a year looking at ultrasounds? When I looked at ultrasounds, I could barely make out structures; images looked like the old tube TVs from the 1980s. When Fox returned, he said, “Steph, the next big thing will be pediatric ultrasound.” Again, I thought he was crazy. But slowly, by seeing how ultrasound impacted the management of our patients in El Testerazo, I realized the brilliance in this craziness. Chris Fox’s enthusiasm and “sonoevangelism” was infectious. I think nearly everyone in the “Flying Sams” ended up eventually doing an ultrasound fellowship. Even though the ultrasound machine in the clinic was old, and images were of limited quality, we were still able to impact the medical care of this community that became near and dear to my heart.

And so it began…my passion for emergency ultrasound (now referred to as point-of-care ultrasound) and for Global Health. My initial goal was to become good at performing ultrasounds. As I quickly realized, I was one of the only people who had experience in pediatric point-of-care ultrasound. I felt a tremendous responsibility to become as knowledgeable and skilled as possible if I were going to teach others this powerful tool. After 4 years of undergraduate education, 4 years of medical school, 3 years of a Pediatrics residency, and 3 years of a Pediatric Emergency Medicine fellowship, I decided to do an additional 1-year fellowship in Emergency Ultrasound. With medical school loans looming and so many years without a “real job,” I was reluctant to do this. This California girl moved from sunny Southern California to Manhattan to embark on a 1-year Emergency Ultrasound fellowship. This was a move far outside of my comfort zone for so many reasons. And that was one of the reasons why it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It has been a privilege to be a part of this growing community… to take better care of the most vulnerable of patients… and to give this tool to other doctors around the world. I certainly would have never had these experiences or opportunities if it weren’t for the “Flying Sams” and Chris Fox; to both, I am forever grateful.

 Are you involved in global medical education? If so, what led to your decision to go into the field? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Stephanie J. Doniger, MD, RDMS, FAAP, FACEP is the Editor of the first pediatric point-of-care ultrasound textbook “Pediatric Emergency and Critical Care Ultrasound,” and is currently practicing Pediatric Emergency Medicine and Point-of-Care Ultrasound in New York. She has additional training in Tropical Medicine and is in charge of Pediatric POCUS education for WINFOCUS Latinamerica.

My Chilean Experience

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to travel to Chile to present at the 18th Congress of Medical Technology meeting in Santiago. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget! The total travel time was about 14 hours, which began in Orlando with a flight delay and an emergency change to an earlier flight that had one seat left and was just about to
close its doors!Chile

Sonographers, as well as other allied health professionals, begin their education in the Colegio de Tecnologos Medicos (College of Medical Technologies); and the Capitulo de Ecografia (Sonography Chapter) is an arm of the College.  It is estimated that there are about 300 sonographers in the country of Chile. I was invited to speak at the meeting of the congress and the preconference, which was the inaugural meeting of the Sonography Chapter.

The evening before the preconference, I was invited to meet with a group of sonographers at a reception to discuss professional issues, certification, and education. The reception was hosted by the President of the College of Medical Technologies, Veronica Rosales, and the President of the Sonography Chapter and AIUM member, Mario Gonzalez Quiroz. At the reception, I was introduced to Fernando Lopez, known as the first sonographer in Chile with about 30 years of experience. I found the sonographers of Chile to be very welcoming and gracious, as well as curious about the role of sonographers in the U.S. They are also eager for educational opportunities to expand their knowledge and expertise.

I gave a total of 6 lectures during the 2 meetings on a variety of topics, including point-of-care, acute abdomen, obstetrical pathology, and pediatric sonography. Oh…did I mention that I don’t speak Spanish? I had synchronous translation of my lectures, and then I was able to enjoy other lectures that were then translated into English for me. As I was developing my lectures, I learned that with asynchronous translation, presentations should be shorter and you need to speak slowly. For me, that meant I had to reduce my typical image-heavy 100-120 slide presentation down to 70-80 slides. Luckily that worked within the time I was given.

This was my first time having lectures translated, my first international lectures, and my first time in Chile (actually my first time in South America)…lots of firsts! It was a true honor to present at this meeting and to meet the sonographers of Chile. I feel like I have made lifelong friendships, expanded my professional family, and experienced the beauty of a new country.

Have you given talks to an international audience? What was your experience? How can U.S.-based physicians and sonographers support their counterparts in other countries? Share your thoughts and ideas here and on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Charlotte Henningsen, MS, RT(R), RDMS, RVT, is the Chair & Professor of the Sonography Department at Adventist University of Health Sciences and the Director of the Center for Advanced Ultrasound Education. She currently serves as the AIUM 2nd Vice President.