BackgroundPsychomotor skills related to the use of medical ultrasound are a fundamental, but often overlooked component of this ubiquitous medical imaging technology. Although discussions of image production/orientation, sonographic planes, and imaging/scanning techniques are common in existing literature, these discussions rarely address practical skills related to these basic concepts. The cognitive load of transducer movements and machine operation, in conjunction with learning the ultrasound representation of anatomy, may overwhelm a novice learner. Our goal was to develop and evaluate a set of ultrasound puzzle phantoms for students to use as they learn isolated, specific transducer movements and sonographic concepts. We intentionally created phantoms that contain objects that are likely familiar to students to reduce the cognitive load associated with simultaneously learning the ultrasound interpretation of anatomy.MethodsThis preliminary evaluation of our novel, homemade, gelatin ultrasound puzzle phantoms was performed using pretests and posttests obtained by scanning an assessment phantom, and student questionnaires. Two phases of training and testing occurred with feedback from Phase 1 allowing for refinement of the puzzles and techniques for testing. Skills taught and evaluated included probe rotation, depth assessment, sliding, and tilting.ResultsTwenty-eight students attended the Phase 1 training session with positive trends in students’ abilities to use rotation, sliding, and tilting to answer questions, while only depth showed statistically significant improvements (p = 0.021). Overall students agreed the experience a productive use of time (86%), was beneficial (93%), and would recommend to others (93%). Fifteen (54%) students returned 3 months later. There was no significant decay in skills obtained from the prior training session. In Phase 2, 134 medical students participated, and 76 (57%) completed an online questionnaire. A majority of students agreed they had a better understanding of rotation (83%), depth (80%), sliding (88%) and tilting (55%). Similar to Phase 1, many students (75%) felt the experience was beneficial.ConclusionsThis preliminary study gave us insight into student opinions, as well as information to guide future scalability and development of additional ultrasound puzzle phantoms to aid in medical student education of isolated transducer movements and sonographic concepts prior to imaging human anatomy.