How To Survive Your First Date With An Ultrasound Machine

scanning ultrasound machine Dec 01, 2022
A vet using an ultrasound machine to scan a dog

I think it's fair to say that in the veterinary world, we are a pretty awesome bunch of professionals. Personally, I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with some great people, and one, in particular, who is also a friend, is Andreia Dias,  


How To Survive Your First Date With An Ultrasound Machine

is by guest blogger Andreia Dias, founder of UniVets Global


For many vets, the ultrasound is such a cool tool! You get to play around with it and see the inside of the animals, but then comes the overwhelming question… “what is this?”. And sometimes we avoid doing ultrasounds because we are very uncomfortable with the answer “I don’t know”. But the ultrasound machine can be your best friend, even if you are at a beginner level, and it doesn’t have to be scary!

I always enjoyed the idea of being able to do ultrasounds, so I’m quite happy to have a go at it. Truth be told, though, it was only after some essential ultrasound CPD that I got this feeling of “wow, I really feel like I can use the ultrasound machine now!”.

There is always a lot of focus on performing the ultrasound and finding normal and not normal, but people forget about what comes before…

At my first job, I thought I didn’t have a very good ultrasound machine: it was old, old-fashioned and didn’t give us good pictures. But after learning a bit more about ultrasound, turns out that I just didn’t know how to use the machine! So here are a few tips about having a great first date with an ultrasound machine, so you feel brave enough to ask for a second one.


Learn The Language


Yes, there is a language! You want to learn what buttons to push – in other words, learn the basic settings for your ultrasound machine. What’s the frequency of your probe? Do you have more than one? Where do you actually see the frequency?

I didn’t know I could change the frequency of my probe when I first started to use my ultrasound machine! The result - I didn't think it was very good for scanning cats (after using it to scan an overweight Labrador).


Order Some Wine


Truth be told, you only need to know about free fluid to get started. You are much more likely to be using the ultrasound in an emergency setting at first, and that is great news! In an emergency setting, you most likely need to use the ultrasound for FAST scans. Despite the acronym, they’re not necessarily fast. FAST stands for Focused Assessment with Sonography for Trauma, and its goal is to detect free fluid.

The abdominal FAST is super easy to do – tummy up, pretend the abdomen is a good old-fashioned clock and put your probe at lunchtime (12 o’clock), afternoon break (3 o’clock), tea time (Brits and their dinner at 6 o’clock…) and brush your teeth time (9 o’clock).

We can all see a blob of black on an ultrasound screen and identify free fluid!

The thoracic FAST is a bit more tricky (I find) – but if there is fluid, you still see it! This can help you perform a life-saving thoracocentesis with certainty that you should be doing it, and you can even do it with the trusted help of your ultrasound to guide you.


It’s A 4-Course Dinner


If you want to go one step further, there are only 4 organs in “basic” abdominal ultrasound. And really, to get started, you only need to identify four of them: the liver, the spleen, the kidneys and the bladder (ok, so that’s two kidneys, so in total, that’s 5 organs, but you get the gist of it).

Ultrasound skills start with identifying these four (erm, five) organs and getting the different views for each of them before you start to dig around for weird echographic signs and funny little things like the pancreas and adrenals… Your guts are quite good to have a good feel for, too (so we’re at six now???), however personally, I feel they are more challenging, and I often feel much happier and accomplished if I know I’ve been able to find one liver, one spleen, one bladder and two kidneys…

Here’s a secret, too – even to this day, as a general practitioner (having worked for more than 5 years), I always get someone else to find the pancreas!


Start with the basics. It will still save lives!


If you want to develop your ultrasound knowledge further and grow your confidence the explore the FOVU interactive CPD courses.