Previous investigators have assessed United States Case Law to evaluate the medicolegal risk surrounding point-of-care ultrasound applications. These studies have suggested that nonperformance is the primary source of an allegation of medical malpractice.
The objective of this study is to update the literature regarding medical malpractice cases involving ultrasound applications that could be used at the point of care, and assess the risk conveyed to advanced practice providers and by application of emerging applications of ultrasound.
Authors reviewed the Westlaw database for medical
malpractice cases involving point-of-care ultrasound applications between December 2012 and January 2021. Cases
were included if there was an allegation of misconduct by an emergency provider and if an ultrasound included in the American College of Emergency Physicians investigators core, extended, emerging, or adjunct applications was discussed to any degree. Investigators independently reviewed the cases for inclusion. Authors abstracted the case information, type of ultrasound performed, and the specific allegation of misconduct.
Nineteen cases met inclusion criteria. Seven cases involved core applications of emergency ultrasound and 13 involved extended, emerging, or adjunct applications. One case was included in both categories as it included elements of both core and extended applications. The most common primary allegation was failure to perform an ultrasound. No cases clearly alleged misinterpretation of a point-of-care ultrasound.
As previous studies have suggested, nonperformance of ultrasound seems to convey the greatest medicolegal risk. Extended, emerging, or adjunct applications of ultrasound may convey a slightly higher risk.