Today marks the end of a busy week scanning new participants for the study.
This week I played a much more active role in the scanning and communication with the participants. I got to help operate the ultrasound machine by freezing/clipping images and altering frequency, depth and gain of the scan in order to optimize the quality of the image. Before this experience, I did not realise that such variables could be altered according to each individual. Each individual has different morphology of anatomical structures, thickness of subcutaneous tissue etc. So taking images in pre-determined variety of settings enables us to produce at least one image of suitable quality for further analysis.
It took me a while to get used to the sequence in which buttons had to be pressed, but by the time the third participant had come in I didn’t need any prompt from Kyra!
As well as helping to operate the ultrasound machine, I took measurements and used a pen to mark specific areas on the lower back so Kyra can continue to place the probe in the exact same anatomical position on each participant. I took measurements such as the length of the probe head, distance laterally from each side of the probe head. I was quite nervous about this as I wanted to get accurate measurements so the positioning of the probe is correct.
I also learnt that you can get different viewpoints of internal structures, just by altering the plane of the probe. For example, if you position the probe parallel to the spine, you can gain a longitudinal view of the fascia and surrounding muscles. Whereas if you position the probe perpendicular to the spine, you can gain a transverse view of the fascia and surrounding muscles. I found the transverse view particularly interesting, as you can gain a bird-eye view of the vertebrae in the spine. Even with my limited experience in ultrasound imaging I could point out all the different structures of the vertebrae including: the spinous process, transverse process, foramen, lamina and pedicle.
With regards to the focus groups more work has also been done in this area. Using excel I grouped the data according to the scores of organisation, and using an excel formula I used Pseudo-Randomization to gain a number of scan samples from each score category. These randomized scan pictures were then put into a folder, ready for the focus group to analyse. During this process I realised the importance of avoiding bias and having solid, consistent methodology when randomly selecting samples from data. The fact we took a selection of samples from each score category meant that we avoided the most common scores becoming a majority of the scans for the sample group. We also selected a slightly different number of samples from each score category depending on size.
Next week a majority of my time will be spent on a completely new task involving the recruitment of new participants. This will give me yet another viewpoint on the organisation of a study and challenge me with regards to explaining the study in a format people will understand, making sure bias is avoided when recruiting, and finding places to promote the study.