BACKGROUND: Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) can improve patient management in the emergency department (ED). However, previous studies have focused only on selected groups of patients, such as trauma, shock, dyspnea, or critically ill patients, or patients with an already known diagnosis. Most patients seen in the ED do not match these criteria. We aim to present total prevalence of positive findings when basic POCUS is applied to the broad population of patients seen in an emergency department.
METHODS: We conducted a single-center prospective explorative observational study of 405 unselected patients aged 18 years or over. A structured whole-body ultrasound examination was performed on all patients within 2 h of arrival to the ED. The ultrasound examination consisted of focused cardiac ultrasound, focused abdominal ultrasound, focused assessment with sonography for trauma (FAST), and focused lung ultrasound.
RESULTS: We managed to perform 94.5% of all planned examinations. The study revealed positive findings in 39.3% of all included patients. This study presents the prevalence of positive findings among subgroups of patients. Divided among the categories of chief complaint, we found 62 positive examinations in 58 (14.3%; 95% CI, 10.9-17.7) unique patients with orthopedic complaints, 77 positive examinations among 59 (14.6%; 95% CI, 11.1-18.0) unique patients with medical complaints, and 55 positive examinations among 42 (10.4%; 95% CI, 7.4-13.3) unique patients with abdominal surgical complaints.
CONCLUSION: POCUS revealed positive findings in more than one third of unselected patients in the emergency department. The study presents the findings and distribution among categories of chief complaints. Future investigations are necessary to elucidate the implication of the findings.