Anthropomorphic breast ultrasound training helps radiology residents

Anthropomorphic breast ultrasound phantoms can be a useful tool for radiology resident education programs, according to new research published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

The researchers, led by Jacinta E. Browne, PhD, of the Department of Radiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, noted the quality of ultrasound images is reliant on the knowledge and expertise of the radiologist. Training is typically performed on the job, they noted, and certain obstacles exist with such on-the-job training.

“This approach offers limited tactile feedback with limited acquisition of motor and hand-eye coordination skills and does not afford trainees the opportunity to master the complex ultrasound scanning skills for the plethora of ultrasound imaging examinations,” the authors wrote. “Furthermore, the complexity and rapid pace of development of ultrasound technology poses an additional challenge for the trainee in this field.”

The researchers sought to determine the impact anthropomorphic breast ultrasound phantoms that look, feel and have similar sonographic characteristics of breast tissues had on the training of a group of radiology residents. Nine residents were used as the study cohort. Two phantoms were developed that provided a realistic experience. The researchers measured the residents’ baseline ability to assess lesions in the first phantom. They then held a two-hour teaching session on the same phantom.

To determine retention, the residents underwent a post-training workshop on the second phantom so they could correctly characterize the lesions. The researchers found there was an increase in both detection and characterization scores for all residents before and after the training workshop.

Pre- and post-stimulation assessments showed a “significant” detection score increase of an average of 26 percent and pre- and post-stimulation showed a “moderate” characterization score increase of an average of 17 percent.

“Training using simulation technology, such as an anthropomorphic breast ultrasound training phantom or a simulation laboratory, offers a novice trainee an opportunity to mature into a ‘pretrained novice,’” Browne et al. wrote.

A pretrained novice, they explained, is a resident who has been trained enough that many complex skills occupy "fewer cognitive resources." 

“This allows a novice trainee to focus on higher-level learning in the ultrasound scanning room, such as taking a systematic scanning approach, performing image optimization via instrument control, and performing image interpretation,” the researchers wrote. “Furthermore, training using simulation technology provides trainees with the opportunity to engage in deliberate practice, a key aspect of adult learning theory and philosophy.”