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BMC Int Health Hum Rights. 2009 Mar 27;9:4. doi: 10.1186/1472-698X-9-4.

Impact of the introduction of ultrasound services in a limited resource setting: rural Rwanda 2008.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Alameda County Medical Center, 1411 E, 31st Street, Oakland, California, USA.



Over the last decade, utilization of ultrasound technology by non-radiologist physicians has grown. Recent advances in affordability, durability, and portability have brought ultrasound to the forefront as a sustainable and high impact technology for use in developing world clinical settings as well. However, ultrasound's impact on patient management plans, program sustainability, and which ultrasound applications are useful in this setting has not been well studied.


Ultrasound services were introduced at two rural Rwandan district hospitals affiliated with Partners in Health, a US nongovernmental organization. Data sheets for each ultrasound scan performed during routine clinical care were collected and analyzed to determine patient demographics, which ultrasound applications were most frequently used, and whether the use of the ultrasound changed patient management plans. Ultrasound scans performed by the local physicians during the post-training period were reviewed for accuracy of interpretation and image quality by an ultrasound fellowship trained emergency medicine physician from the United States who was blinded to the original interpretation.


Adult women appeared to benefit most from the presence of ultrasound services. Of the 345 scans performed during the study period, obstetrical scanning was the most frequently used application. Evaluation of gestational age, fetal head position, and placental positioning were the most common findings. However, other applications used included abdominal, cardiac, renal, pleural, procedural guidance, and vascular ultrasounds.Ultrasound changed patient management plans in 43% of total patients scanned. The most common change was to plan a surgical procedure. The ultrasound program appears sustainable; local staff performed 245 ultrasound scans in the 11 weeks after the departure of the ultrasound instructor. Post-training scan review showed the concordance rate of interpretation between the Rwandese physicians and the ultrasound-trained quality review physicians was 96%.


We suggest ultrasound is a useful modality that particularly benefits women's health and obstetrical care in the developing world. Ultrasound services significantly impact patient management plans especially with regards to potential surgical interventions. After an initial training period, it appears that an ultrasound program led by local health care providers is sustainable and lead to accurate diagnoses in a rural international setting.

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