Difficulties encountered by physicians in interpreting focused echocardiography using a pocket ultrasound machine in prehospital emergencies

Cyril Charron, François Templier, Nathalie S Goddet, Michel Baer, Antoine Vieillard-Baron
European Journal of Emergency Medicine: Official Journal of the European Society for Emergency Medicine 2015, 22 (1): 17-22

OBJECTIVE: Pocket ultrasound devices (PUDs) increase the scope of transthoracic echocardiography. We assessed the ability of emergency physicians (EPs) to obtain and interpret views using PUDs in prehospital emergencies.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Nine EPs underwent a 2-day training program focused on acquisition of four views and on evaluation of left ventricular function, right ventricular size, the inferior vena cava, and detection of pericardial effusion. Then, EPs used a PUD to perform transthoracic echocardiography in patients with shock or acute respiratory failure. The quality and interpretation of views were graded by an expert as not obtained/inadequate, adequate, or optimal. Agreement between the expert and the physicians was evaluated using Cohen's κ test.

RESULTS: One hundred consecutive exams were evaluated in patients with shock or acute respiratory failure. Parasternal long-axis and short-axis views, and a subcostal view were not obtained or inadequate in 56, 54, and 54 patients, respectively. An apical four-chamber view was not obtained or inadequate in 33 patients. One, two, or three views were graded as adequate or optimal in 86, 65, and 35 patients. Agreement between physicians and experts for left ventricular systolic function, right ventricular size, and pericardial effusion was weak [κ 0.37 (0.17; 0.59), 0.27 (0.023; 0.53), and 0.33 (-0.008; 0.67)]. Agreement for inferior vena cava evaluation was very weak [0.13 (-0.17; 0.43)].

CONCLUSION: After a very short training program, echocardiography using a PUD in prehospital emergencies was feasible in half of patients. Acquisition of technical skills is reasonable, but accurate evaluation of cardiac function may require more extensive training.

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