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Feasibility study of first-year medical students identifying cardiac anatomy using ultrasound in rural Panama.



There are over 15 million children who have cardiac anomalies around the world, resulting in a significant morbidity and mortality. Early recognition and treatment can improve the outcomes and lengthen life-expectancy of these patients. The NIH and WHO have promoted guidelines for screening for congenital cardiac anomalies using ultrasound in rural environments.


Our study took place in Bocas Del Toro, Panama where a mobile clinic was established for community healthcare screening and ultrasonographic evaluation by medical student volunteers and volunteer clinical faculty. This was a non-blinded, investigational study utilizing a convenience sample of pediatric patients presenting for voluntary evaluation. Seven first-year medical students were recruited for the study. These students underwent a training program for advanced cardiac ultrasound instruction, termed "Pediatric Echocardiography Cardiac Screening (PECS)".


Ten patients were enrolled in the study. Nine patients had adequate images as defined by the PECS criteria and were all classified as normal cardiac pathology by the medical students, resulting in a sensitivity and specificity of 100%. A single patient was identified by medical students as having a pathologic pulmonic stenosis. This was confirmed as correct by a blinded ultrasonographer.


In this pilot study, the first-year medical students were able to correctly identify pediatric cardiac anatomy and pathology in rural Panama after undergoing a 12-hour ultrasound PECS training session. We believe that with this knowledge, minimally trained practitioners can be used to screen for cardiac anomalies in rural Panama using ultrasound.

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