Point-of-care ultrasound has changed the way medical professionals practice medicine, and Dr Peter Snelling is at the forefront of breaking new ground to establish an evidence base for patients presenting to the emergency department. 

Dr Snelling, from Griffith University’s School of Medicine and Dentistry and the Menzies Health Institute Queensland, conducted a study comparing functional outcomes in children who presented to an emergency department with suspected distal forearm fractures. 

In this remarkable endeavour, Dr Snelling collaborated closely with his PhD supervisor and collaborator, Robert Ware, from The Centre for Applied Health Economics research group. Together, they explored the potential of portable ultrasound devices as an alternative to traditional x-ray machines in diagnosing such injuries in children. The premise was to investigate if portable ultrasound devices could provide an alternative to x-ray machines for diagnosing these types of injuries in children. 

This piece of research has formed the basis for Dr Snelling’s PhD following the successful completion of the first randomised controlled trial for paediatric distal forearm fracture diagnosis. 

“Other projects that I am working on include the use of point-of-care ultrasounds in performing regional nerve blocks and for the detection of hip effusions in children with a limp,” he said. 

With any research come challenges, and Dr Snellings finds the biggest hurdle for him is trying to build a culture of research. 

Researcher giving ultrasound to child's forearm

“The other aspect is finding time as everything takes longer than you think, but the end product makes it all worthwhile.” 

And the world is taking notice! 

“I’ve had enquiries from around the world about further collaboration and partnership which is crucial to obtaining high quality outputs,” he said. 

“I believe it has also inspired others to pursue research in point-of-care ultrasound. 

“My goals are to get more people involved in performing high-quality research for point-of-care ultrasound and to help develop an evidence base for its various applications as the use of this technology has streamed ahead of the evidence.” 

Having a positive effect on society is paramount, particularly as the attraction of point-of-care ultrasound is that it is becoming more affordable, more portable and more ubiquitous in medical practice worldwide. 

Moreover, there has been growing adoption in low and middle-income countries. 

“This means research into applications of point-of-care ultrasound for patient care can have global reach and the potential to make a positive difference in many people’s lives.” 

With this global interest comes a timely reminder from Dr Snelling in this age of a 24/7 media cycle. 

“Make it relevant and simple to understand and don’t underestimate the power of social media as an effective way to disseminate research findings.” 

With many high school students weighing up their university course options, Dr Snelling has some sound advice. 

“Research can take a lot of time and hard work, but if you have a topic that you’re passionate about, you will always find a way forward and have the motivation to succeed.” 

Medicine can be an exciting field filled with developments and discoveries. 

In Dr Snelling’s opinion, the best discoveries in recent years have been around ‘doing less’.” 

“For example, the conservative management of spontaneous pneumothoraces instead of inserting a drain, or managing a distal forearm buckle fracture in a bandage instead of splints or casts. 

“Emergency medicine is very broad and dynamic so there’s been a lot of great research.” 

The future looks bright for point-of-care ultrasound research and the different facets in which it can be used in an emergency department. 

“I plan to continue researching port-of-care ultrasound and building up a research group called Sonography Innovation and Research (SONAR) group,” Dr Snelling said.