Imagers find learning curve for interpretation worth the climb

November 2, 2005

Early adopters of 3D interpretation say more training is needed to encourage radiologists to leap into the volumetric viewing fray. With the right system and the right training, they say, 3D increases interpretive capability without slowing the workflow.

Early adopters of 3D interpretation say more training is needed to encourage radiologists to leap into the volumetric viewing fray. With the right system and the right training, they say, 3D increases interpretive capability without slowing the workflow.

Where and how to obtain that training can be a stumbling block, however. The best place to start is with the workstation training that vendors provide during installation, said Dr. Matthew Barish, director of the 3D and imaging lab at Brigham and Women's Hospital. But it's important to prod trainers to go beyond showing how the device works on a basic level.

"Vendors will provide workstation training, but most of that is about which buttons to push to generate certain images, as opposed to what images are most appropriate for any given clinical study," Barish said. "And that's where a lot of training is lacking."

Forums such as the annual Symposium on Multidetector-Row CT and the Society of Body Computed Tomography/MR, which include workstation face-off events, clinical presentations on 3D applications, and vendor-sponsored training at the workstation, are another way radiologists can become adept with 3D techniques. Integrating image processing training into residency programs would instill 3D concepts in residents and fellows during the formative stages of interpretive training, Barish said.

For first-timers, the most important thing to learn about 3D is how to integrate it into the rest of the radiology workflow. And that knowledge can only come with hands-on experience, he said.

"It is something you are starting to see at CME courses. But until you sit down at your workstation with your own data and see what works best for you, you won't know how to make it a routine part of your practice," Barish said. "Hands-on use is going to help you understand how to generate images that lead to a successful diagnosis and communicate the diagnosis you've made."

The learning curve for 3D is steep but one worth climbing, according to Dr. Mark Herbst, a solo radiologist with St. Petersburg Radiology in Florida.

"At first it is so confusing and frustrating," he said. "You might ask yourself, why did I spend money on something that is taking me more time? But then there will be that one case where 3D makes all the difference. You will see why it's worth learning to use."