Many clinicians practice emergency medicine with minimal integration of clinician-performed bedside ultrasound. To save time, consultative studies are often ordered, and when that is not available, succumb to altering practice patterns or attempt to answer the clinical question through alternative means. Historically, emergency clinicians have provided high-quality patient care without it and can perhaps continue doing so — or perhaps it’s time to change.
Emergency ultrasound has become increasingly available. The literature reviewed here supports its use and suggests that patient care can be improved when clinicians develop the knowledge and skills to perform bedside ultrasound. Like emergent airways and electrocardiograms, emergency ultrasound is now a core component of emergency medicine residency training and is becoming fundamental to the clinical practice of emergency medicine. It is now a part of the Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) algorithm and may perhaps, in the not-so-distant future, be likewise integrated into Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) algorithms.
There are now 11 core emergency ultrasound applications available to emergency clinicians to help diagnose and guide treatment for a wide range of acute and life-threatening medical conditions. As this article has made evident, the existing literature on emergency ultrasound is sound for some applications and more preliminary for others. This literature continues to develop, and the quality of the work continues to improve. With larger data networks being formed, multicenter collaborative efforts are on the horizon and are likely to yield more evidence to support and to further define the evolving role of emergency ultrasound.
James Q. Hwang; Heidi Harbison Kimberly; Andrew S. Liteplo; Dana Sajed
March 2, 2011