This past week, I had the pleasure of shadowing an ultrasound technician. The first patient was in the emergency room and sent from the Coumadin Clinic with abnormal blood counts and pain in her leg.
Since she had a history of blood clotting, and was currently on Coumadin, the ultrasound was going to check to see if she had recurring blood clots. Coumadin is a blood thinner that can treat and prevent blood clots.
Initially, when my preceptor started the ultrasound, I was unsure of what was appearing on the screen. He applied gel to the patient’s leg and moved from the hip to the calf. After the 30 minute process, my preceptor explained what was going on during the ultrasound and the images he captured.
To determine whether there is a blood clot or not, the veins will open and close completely if there is not a clot. If there is a clot, the vein will have a discolored blob and the vein will not close completely. Her results concluded that she had a few minor blood clots.
My preceptor explained to me that this was normal for her situation because she had previously had them. Once you have a blood clot, you are more prone to getting them in the future. The next step for her was to continue on the Coumadin in hopes that her blood clot totals would decrease and they would be better prevented for the future.
The next patient needed an ultrasound of the heart. He was complaining of chest pain and trouble breathing. The purpose of his ultrasound was to ensure that his heart was pumping and functioning properly.
After the 30 minute ultrasound, my preceptor put an IV in his arm to inject image enhancing agents. The image enhancing agents would allow the images for the ultrasound to be more clear and visible to the technician, so that she could determine the problem and proceed with treatment. The results for this test would be available to him within the next week.
The third and final patient I worked with came into the emergency room complaining of excruciating pain in her leg, causing her to be unable to walk. My preceptor began by asking her questions pertaining to her activities for that day. She had been walking around, so immobility was not the issue.
He proceeded with performing an ultrasound from the top of her leg to the bottom. The top part of her leg seemed to be pumping blood as normal.
Overall, this rotation was really interesting to me. I learned a lot about the process and the findings of ultrasounds.