Point-of-care ultrasound induced changes in management of unselected patients in the emergency department – a prospective single-blinded observational trial


Background: Point-of-Care ultrasound (POCUS) changes the management in specific groups of patients in the
Emergency Department (ED). It seems intuitive that POCUS holds an unexploited potential on a wide variety of
patients. However, little is known about the effect of ultrasound on the broad spectrum of unselected patients in
the ED. This study aimed to identify the effect on the clinical management if POCUS was applied on unselected
patients. Secondarily the study aimed to identify predictors of ultrasound changing management.

Methods: This study was a blinded observational single center trial. A basic whole body POCUS protocol was
performed in extension to the physical examination. The blinded treating physicians were interviewed about the
presumptive diagnosis and plan for the patient. Subsequently the physicians were unblinded to the POCUS results and asked to choose between five options regarding the benefit from POCUS results.

Results: A total of 403 patients were enrolled in this study. The treating physicians regarded POCUS examinations
influence on the diagnostic workup or treatment as following: 1) No new information: 249 (61.8%), 2) No further
action: 45 (11.2%), 3) Further diagnostic workup needed: 52 (12.9%), 4) Presumptive diagnosis confirmed 38 (9.4%), and 5) Immediate treatment needed: 19 (4.7%). Predictors of beneficial ultrasound were: (a) triage > 1, (b) patient comorbidities (cardiac disease, hypertension or lung disease), or (c) patients presenting with abdominal pain, dyspnea, or syncope.

Conclusion: POCUS was found to be potentially beneficial in 27.0% of all patients. High triage score, known cardiac disease, hypertension, pulmonary diseases, a clinical presentation with abdominal pain, dyspnea, or syncope are predictors of this. Future research should focus on patient-important outcomes when applying POCUS on these patients.

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