Monday, December 28, 2020

Ultrasounds (the inside baseball version)

I learned some interesting things about ultrasounds last week. 

I had one on the 24th, as a precaution (side note: it was totally normal). The technician doing the ultrasound was in her sixties, I think, and I asked her how long she'd been doing this. 30+ years, she said, so I asked her some questions about the technology and how it had changed. 

The changes have largely been in both speed and accuracy, which makes sense. But she also said the biggest hardware leap that's coming is wireless wands. Everyone hates the cords, she said, and they constantly get in the way. The problem with the initial wireless models that have recently come out, though, is that they're too bulky. Packing all the electronics into the wand instead of having the cord as the data cable makes a significant difference in size, and the wireless wands just aren't that usable right now. 

I asked her how long it took to get good at doing scans. Not just competent, but good. She said 5-6 years, which surprised me. I didn't realize it was that complex. 

I also asked her how she analyzes a black and white image that is constantly changing as she moves the wand. It just looks looked like a mess to me, and I wanted to know how she knew when to take an image. 

There are actually two kinds of images, she said: still and a 6-second video mode. She takes both over the course of an examination. There's a minimum level of documentation required for each scan, so there's a somewhat standard set of images/videos. However, she also said there's a level of interpretation outside the standard documentation where she will take additional images when she sees something unusual. That's one of the reasons it takes so long to become highly skilled, because you need so much experience in seeing what's normal to be able to immediately recognize what's not. 

One of the things I've always really enjoyed is talking to people who are good at what they do. Hearing about the processes they use is fascinating, and I haven't had many chances this year because of Dammit 2020. 

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