Diagnostic ultrasound is considered the imaging modality of choice for many conditions in veterinary medicine. However, the ability to accurately identify and interpret abnormalities is highly dependent on the training and skill of the individual performing the study.
Veterinarians who perform and interpret diagnostic ultrasound examinations should be licensed veterinary practitioners having a thorough understanding of the indications and guidelines for ultrasound examinations, as well as familiarity with the basic physical principles and limitations of ultrasound imaging technology. They should be familiar with alternative and complementary imaging and diagnostic procedures, and should be capable of correlating the results of these other procedures with the ultrasound examination findings. Veterinarians who perform ultrasound examinations should understand the anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology of the organs or anatomic areas that are being examined. They should be able to acquire ultrasound images that correctly depict anatomy, have a thorough understanding of normal ultrasound anatomy, and must be able to identify abnormal ultrasound anatomy. These veterinarians should be able to accurately document ultrasound studies and generate a written report on their findings.
The ultrasound training requirements in American College of Veterinary Radiology (ACVR) approved radiology residencies exceed those of any other specialty organization in veterinary medicine. Radiology residents undertake didactic courses in the physics and technology of ultrasound and learn to correlate ultrasound findings with gross anatomy and surgical pathology. During a 3 to 4 year radiology residency program, residents devote a minimum 6 months of intensive clinical training to diagnostic ultrasound, and must conduct a minimum of 1000 ultrasound examinations. Most programs far surpass these minimum requirements. Residents are also required to become proficient at safely performing ultrasound guided fine needle aspirates and biopsies.
The ACVR recognizes that technologists working with and mentored by ACVR Diplomates can effectively perform ultrasonography, and expand the clinical imaging services provided by ACVR Diplomates. The ACVR recommends that a minimum level of training for these technicians include doing at least 500 examinations supervised by an ACVR Diplomate, as well as didactic education in ultrasound anatomy and physics. Continued mentorship of these technicians by an ACVR Diplomate is strongly recommended. In the event an ultrasound examination is performed by a technologist without the direct supervision of an ACVR Diplomate, a written report should be generated and signed by an ACVR Diplomate based on a review of captured diagnostic ultrasound images.