Supporting safe ultrasound scanning - Veterinary Practice
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InFocus

Supporting safe ultrasound scanning

“While the cost of ultrasound equipment has decreased in recent years, making it more accessible than ever, this has not been matched by an increase in people with the skills to use it safely”

Have you ever wondered where training is available for veterinary professionals to develop their ultrasound skills? Or considered what is being done to address the growth in the misuse of ultrasound in the veterinary sector? Perhaps you’re looking to gain the confidence needed to reach out to trained ultrasound paraprofessionals to support your team and/or practice.

Then look no further as Catherine Stowell of the Animal Ultrasound Association (AUA) addresses how to support safe ultrasound scanning in small animal practice.

The challenge

While the cost of ultrasound equipment has decreased in recent years, making it more accessible than ever, this has not been matched by an increase in people with the skills to use it safely. This skill shortage is reflected in both human and veterinary medicine.

Vets are under immense pressure, which has only increased in the last few years. We must also recognise the growth in the misuse of ultrasound by a small but very visible group of people.

The trained and accredited ultrasound paraprofessional

One solution in the UK is our strong community of highly trained paraprofessional scanners. They are not sonographers and not vets, but people who have invested a lot of time and money in good equipment and training and work in conjunction with their local vet to provide pregnancy ultrasound scanning services. These paraprofessionals understand their remit and always work within it.

In a reciprocal relationship, the scanner takes the time-consuming pregnancy scans out of the vet’s hands, freeing their time to treat sick animals

In a reciprocal relationship, the scanner takes the time-consuming pregnancy scans out of the vet’s hands, freeing their time to treat sick animals. Some of these animals might even be referred to the vet by the very same scanner who may have incidentally picked up something like pyometra during a case, understanding that it requires immediate veterinary referral.

Advocacy, raising awareness, training and support

As a community interest company (CIC) with the goal of promoting high-quality, safe scanning, the AUA is raising awareness among the general public about where they should go for services such as pregnancy scans – to veterinarians or paraprofessionals rather than fertility clinics.

The group advocates for safe scanning at the highest level and has been involved in the discussions about appropriate legislation for the safe scanning of animals that began in Parliament in November 2022.

The AUA offers training for vets and paraprofessionals. All training is delivered by sonographers, including courses in small animal pregnancy scanning for vets or lay scanners (each with a very different focus and remit). They also teach canine and feline echocardiography for veterinarians with the support of a world-leading veterinary cardiologist.

If you’d like to find out who your local paraprofessional scanner is or discover who can support you with the demand for canine pregnancy scanning in a respectful and mutually beneficial way, there is advice available on the AUA website. Alternatively, you can contact the association via email or telephone at (+44) (0)208 520 5070.

Catherine Stowell

First sourcing veterinary ultrasound and providing training on its use in 2010, Catherine Stowell holds a master’s in medical ultrasound. She is accredited in (human) echocardiography and is undertaking a PhD researching the teaching and learning of ultrasound in echocardiography. Catherine runs courses on small animal pregnancy scanning and cardiac ultrasound and authored Ultrasound for Canine Pregnancy Scanning.

Catherine founded the Animal Ultrasound Association (AUA) in 2016 in response to a deterioration in the quality of small animal pregnancy scanning. With a global membership of veterinarians, vet nurses and breeders, AUA sets the standard for reproductive ultrasound in small animals and allows the public to identify those with sufficient training and expertise to perform a pregnancy scan safely and within their respective remits.


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