Letters Ultrasound scanners and stethoscopes

The usefulness of ultrasound in anaesthesia

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g4095 (Published 18 June 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g4095
  1. David R Price, specialist trainee year 5, anaesthetics1
  1. 1University Hospital of Wales, Heath Park, Cardiff, UK
  1. drp297{at}doctors.org.uk

I was surprised that Wittenberg did not mention the use of ultrasound in anaesthesia and critical care.1 Ever since the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence advocated the use of ultrasound for central venous access in 2002, every anaesthetic department has been obliged to purchase an ultrasound machine. The manufacturers sensed an opportunity, so a plethora of portable high quality machines are now available. Because these were “sitting around” between central line insertions, innovative anaesthetists found more and more ingenious ways to use them. Firstly, they were used for different approaches to venous and arterial cannulation,2 and then for a multitude of nerve and plexus blocks, revolutionising the field of regional anaesthesia in terms of safety as well as quality and variety of techniques.

These scans will never be reported, nor should they—they are in no way diagnostic. There are a huge number of training courses in the field, and regional anaesthesia is a part of the core curriculum for trainee anaesthetists. However, I suspect that few, if any, anaesthetists would say their training was “to the same standard as that of radiologists.” Nevertheless, the technology is used safely and effectively many times a day.

I would advocate that although the Royal College of Radiologists’ stance is understandable in view of diagnostic scans, other uses for ultrasound should not be subject to the same level of scrutiny.


Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g4095


  • Competing interests: None declared.


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