Proceedings of The Physiological Society

Physiology 2016 (Dublin, Ireland) (2016) Proc Physiol Soc 37, PCA104

Poster Communications

An enhanced cardiac physiology practical using ultrasound imaging technology

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

1. Biomedical Sciences Education, Queens University Belfast, Belfast, United Kingdom.


For the medical and biomedical student, the importance of physiology education is enshrined within licensing bodies' literature, which stresses the importance of an understanding of normal function with special emphasis on linking normal physiology to disordered activity. Students are encouraged to develop learning skills and so become "lifelong learners" (General Medical Council, 2015). To achieve this, it is essential that learning is an activity in which the student participates. In this way, knowledge is more likely to be retained by the student who could then apply it to different contexts (Michael, 2006). Our group has previously proposed practical activities as a way of making learning active by encouraging students to engage more with the material (Roe et. al., 2009). More recently, the use of ultrasound in the practical classroom has been mooted to help students visualise thoracic function (Paganini & Rubin, 2015). We have added the use of a simple ultrasound scanner to our medical electrocardiography practical classes. A volunteer's cardiac diameter, cross sectional area and length can be measured and used to calculate various cardiac volumes, ejection fraction and cardiac output (with heart rate). Students are given these data at rest and for a period of cycling on an ergometer. They then engage in directed self-learning where we ask them to link their calculations at rest and during exercise to the principles taught in the lectures involving the effect of increased venous return on cardiac output (Frank-Starling law). To evaluate these classes effectiveness, students were asked to rate their understanding of the Frank-Starling law before and after the ultrasound class. Questions were also posed on the usefulness and clinical applications of the class. Questionnaires were completed by 61 students. A 5 point Likert scale was used to evaluate the response to each of the questions with 5 indicating strong agreement with a statement and 1 strong disagreement. Ratings are given as mean marks out of 5 ± S.E.M, n = 61. There was a significant increase in understanding of the Frank-Starling law, with scores increasing from 2.8±0.1 before, to 3.8±0.1 after the class (student's t-test, P<0.001, n=61). Students scored a statement on how ultrasound enabled better visualisation of the Frank-Starling law with a mean of 3.9±0.1. In response to a question on the usefulness of performing calculations with the data and another on the clinical relevance of the principles learned, students scored 3.9±0.1, and 4.3±0.1 respectively. Our findings suggest positive engagement with the technology. Self-reported measures of learning are significantly improved after its use. Further work on more objective measures of learning would be appropriate.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements