1Department of Clinical Laboratory, Fujita Hearth University School of Medicine, 2Department of Junior College, Fujita Hearth University School of Medicine, 3Department of Internal Medicine, Fujita Hearth University School of Medicine
We mailed questionnaires to 748 registered medical sonographers [RMSs (cardiology)] to gather information for a large-scale survey of RMSs in May 2000. We wanted to evaluate the current state of routine echocardiography in Japan. Altogether, 530 (70.9%) of these sonographers responded; 18 respondents employed by equipment manufacturers were excluded from the start of the study, and another 20 responses from later found to be employee by ultrasonographic equipment manufacturers were also excluded. Responses from all personnel at a single institution were treated as a single response; 436 institutions were thus included in the survey. Most or all examinations were carried out by sonographers at 77.3% of the responding institutions but were performed mainly by physicians at 11.1% of the institutions. At least 80% of sonographer or physician working hours were used for echocardiographic examination at 18.9% of the surveyed institutions, whereas up to half the working hours were devoted to echocardiographic examinations at 67.0% of the institutions. The most frequently reported examination time was 30.40 min [35.6% (n=116) of the institutions], whereas 32.8% (n=107) of the institutions indicated durations of 10.20 min per examination. Left ventricular (LV) dimensions and wall thickness were measured on M-mode images in all patients at 14.1% (n=59) of the institutions and mainly on M-mode images but from two-dimensional echocardiography in problematic patients at 74.2% (n=311) of the institutions. The LV ejection frac-tion was calculated from LV dimensions at 55.7% (n=205) of the institutions and from the LV cross-sectional area at 44.3% (n=163) of the institutions. The LV ejection fraction was estimated visually at 57.0% of the institutions. Only 5.5% (n=22) of the facilities always scored the wall motion. Pulsed Doppler echocardiography was used to assess LV inflow in all patients at 65.9% of the institutions; regurgitation and shunting were always assessed quantitatively at only 2% (n=8). Comments concerning image quality were reported in all cases or in cases of poor image quality at 98% of the institutions, and the sonographer was also involved in writing the diagnostic report at 94% of institutions. Echocardiography is less expensive than other diagnostic imaging methods, and its importance is thus likely to continue to increase. Echocardiographic examinations should be carried out by skilled RMSs and physician echocardiographers; and an accurate, readily comprehensible report of the findings should be provided promptly to the referring physician. More such surveys are required to ensure that these practices are adopted.