ULTRASOUND: The next-gen stethoscope
3D Organon is the first software platform in the world to integrate an ultrasound simulator for VR that does not require a mannequin or other special equipment. The latest 2022 release provides a fully immersive virtual reality training solution for medical and healthcare students. It includes volumetric scanning in real-time and detailed anatomical views. For the first time, VR controllers simulate curved, linear, and cardiac probes in an all-in-one solution.
Ultrasound in healthcare
Handheld ultrasound devices are expected to become the stethoscope of the 21st century. A stethoscope is used to listen to sounds of the heart, lungs, or intestines and blood flow in arteries and veins. Doctors have been using the stethoscope for centuries. However, in recent years, stethoscope’s value is in decline, because of the adoption of high-tech medical imaging devices such as ultrasound.
The Ultrasound is used extensively in healthcare. Firstly, ultrasound waves are entirely painless and harmless for diagnostic use. High-frequency sound waves are transmitted from a probe into the body. The waves are absorbed and reflected on human tissues and organs, and a transducer collects the sounds that bounce back. A computer translates collected sound waves to electrical signals and renders live images displayed on a screen. At the same time, unlike other screening procedures, ultrasound devices do not use radiation but rely on sound waves and echoes instead that can create images called a sonogram.
The Ultrasound is dynamic with images captured in real-time showing the motion of tendons, muscles, and joints, while it is much less expensive than other imaging methods, such as MRI or CT. It also presents soft tissues and fluids accurately, whereas X-rays fail to do so. Ultrasound may have advantages over MRI in presenting tendon structure, which is better appreciated by ultrasound than MRI. Finally, ultrasound provides real-time imaging, formulating an ideal tool for needle guidance during minimally invasive procedures such as fluid aspiration and joint injections. Ultrasound is low-cost and suitable to use in remote areas and resource-limited nations, thus expanding the communication and transmission opportunities of telemedicine.
Ultrasound can make a difference
Research conducted on 41 participants (46% [19/41] physicians, 30% [12/41] residents, 19% [8/41] sonographers, and 5% [2/41] medical students) from Hani et al. (2019) organized by the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC), have shown that most participants agreed that ultrasound provided a realistic setting (98%) and that it allowed for training and identification of pathologies (88%). Furthermore, 100% of the participants agreed that it should be part of the curriculum either in medical school or residency, and most of the participants approved it for training (98%) and teaching (98%).
Although ultrasound is ubiquitous across all disciplines of medicine, not many doctors are educated and trained well enough to use it. Standardized training, interpretation, and documentation should emerge. Ultrasound requires not only theoretical knowledge in anatomy but also extensive practical experience. The setting of an ultrasound simulator is the best solution, as it offers the safest environment for healthcare students and professionals to learn and practice. This simulation-based training could provide standardized and safe skill training. Similarly, to flight simulators for pilots, ultrasound simulation plays a vital role in medical education. It allows trainees to develop skills away from the clinical setting before working on a patient. Immersion improves the quality of conducted virtual training and allows better learning outcomes in a controller environment.
VR simulation in medical education
With the rise of the new century, medical education entered a phase of immense adaptation of new technologies aiding the learning journey of medical and healthcare students.
VR simulation training has been mandatory in aviation for decades and is rapidly gaining importance in medical education. VR simulators are now available for a multitude of medical procedures, each consisting of a procedure-specific interface and a computer that generates images according to the user’s movements. VR simulator training has considerable potential to improve training and education in ultrasound too. 3D Organon’s Ultrasound VR simulator is a new toolkit to facilitate any standardized learning curriculum consisting of learning human anatomy and developing essential hands-on skills.
As Hu et al. (2020) suggested: “VR-enhanced anatomical training could be of significant benefit in ultrasonography training by promoting a better understanding of the spatial relationships of anatomical structures and the development of early psychomotor skills transferable to the handling of ultrasonographic probes.”
Ultrasound simulator in VR from day one
3D Organon’s new 2022 edition introduces an innovative Ultrasound VR simulator, an immersive and joyful learning tool freed from pedagogical restraints. The new ultrasound simulator is now included in the PC-powered VR version of 3D Organon. It is the first in the world of its kind due to not requiring a mannequin or other custom devices to operate. The entry cost to ultrasound training in VR is more accessible than ever. The VR controllers included in consumer headsets are enough to simulate an ultrasound probe and manipulate it with precision in real-time. Standalone-VR support for Oculus Quest and Vive Focus 3 is to be announced soon.
3D Organon’s Ultrasound VR Simulator is offering users an in-depth understanding of anatomy, ultrasound scanning position, and orientation to effectively demonstrate desired views. Users can learn and practice how to handle an ultrasound probe and reproduce standard ultrasound ‘windows’ and views. 3D Organon developed this innovative learning system with passion and enthusiasm to revolutionize medical education and improve the understanding of medical anatomy.
Handheld ultrasound device could become the 21st century stethoscope. (2021).
Impact of virtual reality anatomy training on ultrasound competency development: A randomized controlled trial. (2020). Chung-yi Cheng, Wen-Cheng Huang, Kai-Chun Hu, Daniel Salcedo, Yi-No Kang, , Che-Wei Lin, Chin-Wang Hsu, Fat-Moon Suk. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0242731
Introduction of Ultrasound Simulation in Medical Education: Exploratory Study. Pubmed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31573944/
Solutions: Could a Handheld Ultrasound Replace the Stethoscope? (2018). Tmc. https://www.tmc.edu/news/2018/04/solutions-could-a-handheld-ultrasound-replace-the-stethoscope/
Ultrasound in Medical Education: Can Students Teach Themselves? (2021). Pubmed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34603838/
Will Covid-19 be the straw that breaks the stethoscope?s back? (2020). Stat News. https://www.statnews.com/2020/07/15/point-of-care-ultrasound-replace-stethoscope/
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