Evaluation Study
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Portable ultrasound in pre-hospital emergencies: a feasibility study.

BACKGROUND: Ultrasound plays a central role in the evaluation of both trauma and medical emergencies. The development of portable sonography devices could extent its application into the pre-hospital arena. The aim of our study was to evaluate feasibility of pre-hospital ultrasound in the Norwegian Air Rescue setting.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: During a 3-month period, we conducted a prospective study using sonography in pre-hospital patient management. All examinations were carried out by the same ultrasound-certified physician using a Primedic Handyscan in a standardized focused protocol for abdominal and lung sonography and a subcostal 2-chamber long axis view. Inclusion criteria were abdominal/thoracic and obstetric trauma, circulatory/respiratory compromise, pulseless electric activity (PEA) in cardiac arrest, acute abdomen and monitoring during transport. Allowed examination time was restricted to 3 min on the scene. The patient's gender, age, symptoms, trauma mechanism, quality of visualization and diagnose made were recorded. Pre-hospital results were compared with in-hospital findings.

RESULTS: Thirty-eight patients were entered into the study. Three patients had to be excluded due to technical difficulties. Nineteen medical, 15 traumas and 1 obstetric patient were included. Good visualization was obtained in 74% (n= 26), moderate in 26% (n = 9). Median examination time was 2.5 min (range 1-3 min). Nine patients (26%) showed positive sonography findings. Sensitivity was 90%, specificity 96%. Diagnostic usefulness was high in undetermined cardiac arrest and hypotension and massive hematoperitoneum.

CONCLUSION: Pre-hospital ultrasound when applied by an proficient examiner using a goal-directed, time sensitive protocol is feasible, does not delay patient management and provides diagnostic and therapeutic benefit. Further studies are warranted to identify the exact indications and role of pre-hospital sonography.

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