Quality of abdominal ultrasound image acquisition by novice practitioners following a minimal training session on healthy volunteers

Bradley Waterman, Kristine Van Aarsen, Michael Lewell, Frank Myslik, Michael Peddle, Sean Doran
CJEM 2020, 22 (S2): S74-S78

BACKGROUND: Point of care ultrasound (POCUS) is an essential tool for physicians to guide treatment decisions in both hospital and prehospital settings. Despite the potential patient care and system utilization benefits of prehospital ultrasound, the financial burden of a "hands-on" training program for large numbers of paramedics remains a barrier to implementation. In this study, we conducted a prospective, observational, double-blinded study comparing paramedics to emergency physicians in their ability to generate usable abdominal ultrasound images after a 1-hour didactic training session.

METHODS: Canadian aeromedical critical care paramedics were compared against emergency medicine physicians in their ability to generate adequate abdominal ultrasound images on five healthy volunteers. Quality of each scan was evaluated by a trained expert in POCUS who was blinded to the identity of the participant using a 5-point Likert scale and using the standardized QUICk Focused Assessment with Sonography in Trauma (FAST) assessment tool.

RESULTS: Fourteen Critical care paramedics and four emergency department (ED) physicians were voluntarily recruited. Of paramedics, 57% had never used ultrasound before, 36% has used ultrasound without formal training, and 7% had previous training. Physicians had a higher proportion of usable scans compared with paramedics (100% v. 61.4%, Δ38.6%; 95% confidence interval, 19.3-50.28).

CONCLUSIONS: Paramedics were not able to produce images of interpretable quality at the same frequency when compared with emergency medicine physicians. However, a 61.4% usable image rate for paramedics following a short 1-hour didactic training session is promising for future studies, which could incorporate a short hands-on tutorial while remaining cost-effective.

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