Abdominal ultrasound image acquisition and interpretation by novice practitioners after minimal training on a simulated patient model

Bradley Waterman, Kristine Van Aarsen, Michael Lewell, Homer Tien, Frank Myslik, Michael Peddle, Sean Doran
CJEM 2020, 22 (S2): S62-S66

BACKGROUND: The Focused Assessment with Sonography in Trauma (FAST) exam is a rapid ultrasound test to identify evidence of hemorrhage within the abdomen. Few studies examine the accuracy of paramedic performed FAST examinations. The duration of an ultrasound training program remains controversial. This study's purpose was to assess the accuracy of paramedic FAST exam interpretation following a one hour didactic training session.

METHODS: The interpretation of paramedic performed FAST exams was compared to the interpretation of physician performed FAST examinations on a mannequin model containing 300ml of free fluid following a one hour didactic training course. Results were compared using the Chi-square test. Differences in accuracy rate were deemed significant if p < 0.05.

RESULTS: Fourteen critical care flight paramedics and four emergency physicians were voluntarily recruited. The critical care paramedics were mostly ultrasound-naive whereas the emergency physicians all had ultrasound training. The correct interpretation of FAST scans was comparable between the two groups with accuracy of 85.6% and 87.5% (∆1.79 95%CI -33.85 to 21.82, p = 0.90) for paramedics and emergency physicians respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: This study determined that critical care paramedics were able to use ultrasound to detect free fluid on a simulated mannequin model and interpret the FAST exam with a similar accuracy as experienced emergency physicians following a one hour training course. This suggests the potential use of prehospital ultrasound to aid in the triage and transport decisions of trauma patients while limiting the financial and logistical burden of ultrasound training.

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