RSNA drops ultrasound subspecialty from its scientific program

November 25, 2007

The RSNA has decided to eliminate ultrasound as a separate subspecialty category from its annual meeting’s scientific paper program in favor of an organ-based and clinical subspecialty-based approach. The move was received with mixed reactions by radiologists and sonologists.

The RSNA has decided to eliminate ultrasound as a separate subspecialty category from its annual meeting's scientific paper program in favor of an organ-based and clinical subspecialty-based approach. The move was received with mixed reactions by radiologists and sonologists.

Ultrasound was the last modality-based subcommittee until the 2006 RSNA meeting. The RSNA had been contemplating for a long time the idea of integrating ultrasound into the other subspecialty sections and moving toward the consolidation of an organ-based radiology scientific program, said Dr. Mitchell E. Tublin, chief of ultrasound at the University of Pittsburgh.

According to Tublin, who chaired last year's subcommittee on ultrasound, the RSNA board has put emphasis on appropriately integrating ultrasound papers into different imaging subspecialty categories and also in the refresher courses part of the conference program.

"I'm an abdominal imager, so I read CT, ultrasound, and MR. It makes sense to me to have everything integrated into organ systems," Tublin said in an interview with Diagnostic Imaging.

Sonologists disagree. Incorporating modalities within the different organ systems presents particular challenges for ultrasound abstracts, said Dr. Harvey Nisembaum, American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine's president-elect.

Sonologists worry that many of the subspecialty committee members reviewing the abstracts submitted to the meeting may not have enough ultrasound expertise. They are also concerned that ultrasound papers that address particular niches, such as contrast media and their applications, might get lost in the fray. The move may just be a reflection of gradual loss of interest in ultrasound within radiology, according to Nisembaum.

"If you look at training programs, the residents are really interested in MR and CT rather than in ultrasound. It's unfortunate, because ultrasound is a modality that requires hands-on expertise," said Nisembaum, who is also an associate professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

It seems helpful to use an organ system-type approach to diseases and research if you look at the issue only from a radiologist's point of view, said Dr. Levon Nazarian, a professor of radiology at Thomas Jefferson University. For sonologists, however, this approach leaves the door wide open to turf encroachment.

"Ultrasound is a very hot item among nonradiologists. The way to keep turf and excellence in a particular area is to continue to do the best quality research in that area, and certainly the RSNA is the world's greatest showcase for radiology research," he said.

Radiologists are a rare mix of organ-system expert and modality expert, according to Nazarian. Major discoveries are not made by experts in an organ system, however, but by those who are experts in a modality. An average practitioner of MRI, for instance, will not be able to push the field of MRI forward as rapidly as an MR physicist or the people who devote their entire academic career to MRI, regardless of their subspecialty.

Nazarian's main concern is that the new organ-based approach could take much of the best ultrasound research away from the RSNA meeting.

"When I speak with other sonologists, they feel that RSNA maybe is not the proper forum for their work anymore and that they should be looking elsewhere," he said.

For more information from the Diagnostic Imaging archives:

FDA warning may kill AIUM-supported ultrasound contrast trial

Ultrasound strums familiar chords in RSNA exhibits

AIUM white paper targets FDA's contrast ultrasound approval

Ultrasound's future in play: Will radiologists remain in the picture?