A 3-Dimensional Printed Ultrasound Probe Visuospatial Trainer

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Abstract

Training adult learners to use ultrasound in clinical practice relies on the ability of the learner to apply visuospatial concepts to the anatomy of the human body. We describe a visuospatial trainer that replicates the housing of an ultrasound transducer, through which a linear laser projects light in the same plane and orientation as the ultrasonic sound waves. We use this trainer in combination with a porcine heart dissection laboratory to teach bedside cardiac ultrasound and transthoracic echocardiography (TTE). Off-the-shelf components, including an on/off switch, a laser, and 2 ampere batteries are connected in series and placed inside the 3-dimensional (3D)–printed housing. The trainer's laser emission projects a red line that visually represents the ultrasound's field. Learners project the laser against a porcine or human heart in the orientation of the TTE window they wish to obtain and then dissect the heart in that plane, allowing for visualization of how grayscale images are obtained from 3D structures. Previous research has demonstrated that visuospatial aptitude is correlated with ultrasound procedural performance. We present this trainer and educational method as a specific training intervention that could enhance the visuospatial ability of the ultrasound learner. This visuospatial trainer and educational method present a novel process for enhancing learner understanding of 2-dimensional ultrasound images as they relate to 3D structures. Having a clear understanding of how images are generated in cross section may translate into more proficient adaptation of cardiac ultrasound and TTE.

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