A preliminary evaluation of emergency ultrasound in the setting of an emergency medicine training program

R Lanoix, L V Leak, T Gaeta, J R Gernsheimer
American Journal of Emergency Medicine 2000, 18 (1): 41-5
In this article we seek to evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of emergency physicians performing emergency ultrasonography in the setting of an emergency medicine training program. A prospective observational study was performed at an inner city Level I trauma center with an emergency medicine residency training program. From July 1994 to December 1996 a convenience sample of ultrasound exams was recorded. The diagnostic quality ("acceptable or technically limited") was determined by a board-certified cardiologist or radiologist with fellowship training in ultrasonography. The emergency department interpretations were then compared to those of the blinded cardiologist or radiologist. Four hundred and fifty-six ultrasound examinations were videotaped and entered into the study; 408 (89%) of the studies performed were determined to be "acceptable." The diagnostic accuracy (sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values) of these studies were as follows: cardiac, to rule out effusion (n = 67; 0.83, 0.98, 0.88, 0.98); transabdominal, to rule out abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA), cholelithiasis, or free peritoneal fluid (n = 263; 0.91, 0.89, 0.88, 0.92); renal, to rule out hydronephrosis (n = 45; 0.94, 0.96, 0.94, 0.96); pelvic, to rule in intrauterine pregnancy (n = 33; 1.0, 0.90, 0.96, 1.0). The 48 "technically limited studies" included: 39 transabdominal (33 gallbladder, 1 abdominal aortic aneurysm, 5 free peritoneal fluid), 6 cardiac, 2 renal, and 1 pelvic ultrasound. This study suggests that emergency physicians with a minimal amount of training display acceptable technical skill and interpretive acumen in their approach to emergency ultrasonography.

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