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J Cardiovasc Ultrasound. 2017 Sep;25(3):75-83. doi: 10.4250/jcu.2017.25.3.75. Epub 2017 Sep 29.

Hand-held Ultrasound Scanners in Medical Education: A Systematic Review.

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Swansea University Medical School, Singleton Park, Swansea, UK.
Morriston Cardiac Regional Centre, ABMU LHB, Swansea, UK.
Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust, London, UK.



Ultrasound imaging devices are becoming popular in clinical and teaching settings, but there is no systematic information on their use in medical education. We conducted a systematic review of hand-held ultrasound (HHU) devices in undergraduate medical education to delineate their role, significance, and limitations.


We searched Cochrane, PubMed, Embase, and Medline using the strategy: [(Hand-held OR Portable OR Pocket OR "Point of Care Systems") AND Ultrasound] AND (Education OR Training OR Undergraduate OR "Medical Students" OR "Medical School"). We retained 12 articles focusing on undergraduate medical education. We summarised the patterns of HHU use, pooled and estimated sensitivity, and specificity of HHU for detection of left ventricular dysfunction.


Features reported were heterogeneous: training time (1-25 hours), number of students involved (1-an entire cohort), number of subjects scanned (27-211), and type of learning (self-directed vs. traditional lectures + hands-on sessions). Most studies reported cardiac HHU examinations, but other anatomical areas were examined, e.g. abdomen and thyroid. Pooled sensitivity 0.88 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.83-0.92] and specificity 0.86 (95% CI 0.81-0.90) were high for the detection of left ventricular systolic dysfunction by students.


Data on HHU devices in medical education are scarce and incomplete, but following training students can achieve high diagnostic accuracy, albeit in a limited number of (mainly cardiac) pathologies. There is no consensus on protocols best-suited to the educational needs of medical students, nor data on long-term impact, decay in proficiency or on the financial implications of deploying HHU in this setting.


Echocardiography; Hand-held ultrasound; Sensitivity; Specificity; Undergraduate medical education

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