How to help radiology trainees learn more about peripheral nerve imaging

Electronic modules can help radiology residents and fellows learn more about peripheral nerve imaging at any level of training, according to new research published in Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology.

“Chronic pain is a common problem and imaging is becoming increasingly utilized in the characterization of peripheral neuropathy although this topic is not emphasized during medical training,” wrote lead author Adam Singer, MD, of Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, and colleagues. “We hypothesized that an electronic module and nerve atlas would be effective in improving comprehension among trainees.”

Singer and colleagues created a training module that included a comparison of normal upper extremity nerves on MRI and ultrasound (US). The module also included questions and cases, with a brief hands-on US scanning period. A total of 44 volunteers with various levels of training were vetted for the study at two different institutions. The cohort was given pre- and post-module exams consisting of 20 multiple choice questions created from the information presented within the module.

“Our pre-test results confirm that there is a baseline deficit of knowledge in this subject matter among both medical students and radiology trainees at both institutions, with medical students scoring significantly lower than radiology trainees at the first institution,” the researchers noted.

At the first institution, two groups were formed; the first included 16 medical students and the other included 14 residents and fellows. 

  • Before the learning module, the mean test score was 37.5 percent for the medical students and 47.5 percent for the residents and fellows.
  • After the module, the mean test score was 67.2 percent for the medical students and 76.1 percent for the residents and fellows.

The second institution saw relatively similar results. The first group encompassed 10 radiology residents and four medical students. 

  • Before the learning module, the mean test score for the radiology residents was 39.5 percent. The mean test score for the medical students was 37.5 percent. 
  • After the module, the residents' mean score was 57 percent, and the score for the medical students was 56.3 percent. 

“We believe that this improvement correlates with an increased understanding of peripheral neuropathy and nerve imaging,” Singer et al. noted. “Despite a baseline difference between medical students and radiology trainees, no statistically significant difference was observed between the post-test performance or the degree of improvement of the two groups.”

Because peripheral neuropathy and peripheral nerve imaging are not “well emphasized” in medical schools and residencies, the researchers hope interactive training modules similar to the one they created will help increase trainees’ knowledge in the subject matter.