Integration of ultrasound in medical School: Effects on Physical Examination Skills of Undergraduates

Vittorio Oteri, Federica Occhipinti, Giorgia Gribaudo, Francesco Marastoni, Emanuele Chisari

Introduction Ultrasound (US) imaging has rapidly increased its application in almost every medical field. Many universities worldwide provide teaching of US for undergraduates in their curricula. Emerging evidence is supporting the use of ultrasonography to improve also non-US skills and knowledge of medical students. Objectives The purpose of this review is to understand if the integration of US lessons into medical students’ curriculum improves their learning of physical examination and enhances their skills when performing it. 

Methods We performed a systematic review of literature by searching three electronic medical databases. We included studies of any level of evidence published in peer-reviewed journals. Evaluated data were extracted using the PICO framework and critically analyzed. PRISMA guidelines were applied; we excluded all the articles evaluated with serious risk of bias and/or low methodological quality. 

Results We included 15 articles, accounting for more than 1643 medical students involved from five different countries and 14 various academical institutions. Eight out of nine studies (88.9%) reported an improvement of practical physical examination scores by students exposed to ultrasound lectures. Eleven out of eleven studies (100%), which administered self-assessment questionnaires, reported strong agreement among students that ultrasound lectures helped them learning and understanding the physical exam and improved their confidence and skills. 

Conclusions Increasing evidence shows that incorporating ultrasound in medical students’ curriculum might improve their ability and confidence when learning and performing a physical exam. This significant tendency needs to be corroborated at a deeper level by further studies.


Review Article
Medical Science Educator