Ultrasound Core Laboratory for the Household Air Pollution Intervention Network Trial: Standardized Training and Image Management for Field Studies Using Portable Ultrasound in Fetal, Lung, and Vascular Evaluations
WashU affiliated authors: Víctor G. Dávila-Román, Ashley K. Toenjes, Rachel M. Meyers, Pattie M. Lenzen, Lisa de las Fuentes (Cardiovascular Imaging and Clinical Research Core Laboratory)
Abstract: Ultrasound Core Laboratories (UCL) are used in multicenter trials to assess imaging biomarkers to define robust phenotypes, to reduce imaging variability and to allow blinded independent review with the purpose of optimizing endpoint measurement precision. The Household Air Pollution Intervention Network, a multicountry randomized controlled trial (Guatemala, Peru, India and Rwanda), evaluates the effects of reducing household air pollution on health outcomes. Field studies using portable ultrasound evaluate fetal, lung and vascular imaging endpoints. The objective of this report is to describe administrative methods and training of a centralized clinical research UCL. A comprehensive administrative protocol and training curriculum included standard operating procedures, didactics, practical scanning and written/practical assessments of general ultrasound principles and specific imaging protocols. After initial online training, 18 sonographers (three or four per country and five from the UCL) participated in a 2 wk on-site training program. Written and practical testing evaluated ultrasound topic knowledge and scanning skills, and surveys evaluated the overall course. The UCL developed comprehensive standard operating procedures for image acquisition with a portable ultrasound system, digital image upload to cloud-based storage, off-line analysis and quality control. Pre- and post-training tests showed significant improvements (fetal ultrasound: 71% ± 13% vs. 93% ± 7%, p < 0.0001; vascular lung ultrasound: 60% ± 8% vs. 84% ± 10%, p < 0.0001). Qualitative and quantitative feedback showed high satisfaction with training (mean, 4.9 ± 0.1; scale: 1 = worst, 5 = best). The UCL oversees all stages: training, standardization, performance monitoring, image quality control and consistency of measurements. Sonographers who failed to meet minimum allowable performance were identified for retraining. In conclusion, a UCL was established to ensure accurate and reproducible ultrasound measurements in clinical research. Standardized operating procedures and training are aimed at reducing variability and enhancing measurement precision from study sites, representing a model for use of portable digital ultrasound for multicenter field studies.