Proceedings of The Physiological Society

Physiology 2016 (Dublin, Ireland) (2016) Proc Physiol Soc 37, PCA100

Poster Communications

Enhancing the learning experience in physiology lectures, practicals and tutorials using ultrasound technology

C. Johnson1, S. M. Roe1, E. Tansey1

1. Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, United Kingdom.


There are many areas of physiology that students have difficulty learning, including the cardiovascular system. We have been examining ways in which teaching of cardiovascular physiology can be improved. Ultrasound imaging and Doppler velocity measurement technology has been available for many years and is used clinically to identify abnormal physiology. Basic principles of ultrasound are beginning to be taught at undergraduate level, but with the specific intention of furthering its use in clinical medicine (1). However, due to the nature of ultrasound imaging, and the immediacy of actually seeing the beating heart within the body, we have hypothesised that ultrasound technology may be used to demonstrate basic scientific principles more effectively. Thus, we have evaluated its use in teaching several cardiovascular principles in practical classes. We asked first year Medical students to fill out brief questionnaires regarding their general opinions on the use of ultrasound in teaching physiological concepts following cardiovascular practical classes. All questionnaires and experimental protocols were permitted by the ethics committee at School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Queen's University Belfast. These examined i) factors affecting cardiac output and the Frank-Starling law, in which 2-dimensional imaging was used to visualise heart chambers and make measurements of their dimensions to calculate ventricular volumes and ejection fraction, before and after exercise; ii) venous pressure was studied by 2-dimensional imaging of venous circulation, along with factors involved in arterial exercise hyperaemia using 2-dimansional imaging of artery dimensions and Doppler velocity measurements, before and after exercise. Questionnaires incorporated three questions requiring responses on the Likert scale (Strongly Agree = 5 - Strongly Disagree = 0; mean values ± SEM). Teaching sessions incorporating ultrasound were universally popular (Likert scores: (i) 4.28 ± 0.08, N=61; (ii) 4.39 ± 0.09, N=58), and the vast majority of students thought teaching incorporating ultrasound technology was more effective that conventional methods (Likert scores: (i) 3.98 ± 0.11, N=61; (ii) 4.08 ± 0.11, N=58). Students also deemed ultrasound technology as useful in calculating physiological parameters (Likert scores: (i) 4.23 ± 0.08, N=61; (ii) 4.24 ± 0.07, N=58). These highly positive scores were accompanied by very positive comments in open-ended question responses. We conclude that the use of ultrasound technology enhances the learning experience of medical students in these aspects of basic cardiovascular physiology, and we are now investigating the effectiveness of this technology in improving learning, compared with conventional methods.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements