A survey of bedside ultrasound use by emergency physicians in California

John C Stein, Gerin River, Irina Kalika, Anke Hebig, Daniel Price, Vanessa L Jacoby, Roy Filly
Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine: Official Journal of the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine 2009, 28 (6): 757-63

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to investigate the current practice of emergency physician-performed bedside ultrasound examinations in California and to assess differences between academic and community practice.

METHODS: We queried all emergency departments (EDs) in California to determine whether bedside ultrasound was used by emergency physicians. Among EDs that were using bedside ultrasound, we administered a survey to assess use patterns, credentialing criteria, and quality assurance (QA) programs.

RESULTS: We contacted all eligible EDs (n = 293) by telephone and had a 100% response rate for our primary question: 101 EDs (34%) reported use of bedside ultrasound. Of these 101 EDs, 97 (96%) responded to the secondary survey, showing the following: (1) 48% of physicians at each site were credentialed to use ultrasound in at least 1 modality; (2) 70% of EDs used American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) criteria for credentialing guidelines; and (3) 33% had an ultrasound QA program. Comparing practice settings, 68% of academic departments used bedside ultrasound compared with 29% of community departments (difference, 39%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 23% to 54%; P < .0001). In academic departments, a mean of 60% of physicians were credentialed, compared with 41% in community EDs (difference, 19%; 95% CI, 2.5% to 35%; P = .036).

CONCLUSIONS: Most California EDs do not use bedside ultrasound. Although most EDs using ultrasound report that they follow ACEP emergency ultrasound guidelines, most do not have a QA program as recommended by these guidelines. Compared with community EDs, academic EDs are more likely to use bedside ultrasound, have physicians credentialed in ultrasound use, and have QA programs.

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