Sonography has become the primary mode for the initial evaluation of abdominal injury in many trauma centers. However, the rate at which nonradiologists become proficient in this technique remains controversial.
To assess the learning curve for this technique in a single institution.
Retrospective review of sonographic examinations for trauma performed by senior surgical residents during a 24-month period at an American College of Surgeons–verified level I trauma center.
University-affiliated private hospital.
Patients and Methods
Before the initiation of a program of surgeon-performed trauma ultrasound, senior surgical residents (postgraduate years 4 and 5) received 11.5 hours of hands-on and didactic instruction in the focused ultrasound examination for trauma. This examination then became a standard component of the evaluation of injured patients. Subsequent groups of senior residents received 8 hours of instruction at the onset of new academic years, 6 and 18 months, respectively, after the initial course. The sensitivity, specificity, accuracy, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value were then calculated for each 6-month period after the introduction of trauma sonography.
During the 24-month study period, 902 sonographic examinations were performed. No statistically significant differences were noted in sensitivity, specificity, accuracy, positive predictive value, or negative predictive value for any 6-month period of study when compared with the other 6-month periods or with the values calculated for the entire study period.
Senior surgical residents are capable of performing the focused ultrasound examination for trauma with a high level of skill after a concise introductory course. A learning curve was not apparent in our series. Criteria for being permitted to perform trauma sonography that include the requirement of a large number of examinations or extensive proctoring should be reassessed.