Surgical residents and ultrasound technician accuracy and cost-effectiveness of ultrasound in trauma

Am Surg. 1999 Mar;65(3):289-91.


The purpose of this study is 2-fold: 1) to assess the accuracy of the Focused Abdominal Sonogram for Trauma (FAST) as an important evaluative tool for the trauma victim as compared with other objective testing resources (i.e., computerized axial tomography scan); and 2) to analyze the cost-effectiveness of FAST as performed by surgical residents as compared with ultrasound (US) technicians. FAST was performed on 650 trauma victims over a period of 12 months. Testing was completed in a trauma room of the emergency department by an US technician or a trauma surgical resident as determined by the availability of the US technician. Hypotensive patients required two FASTs to be completed for comparison of results. Persistent difficulty interpreting the FAST required the addition of a computerized axial tomography scan to help clarify the results. Statistical analysis was performed using chi2 and analysis of variance. False positive, false negative, and true positive, true negative, along with the accuracy of FAST were calculated as compared with other diagnostic testing. The finding indicated that FAST was both specific (99 per cent) and sensitive (68 per cent) in the sample used. Of the 650 patients receiving FAST, true negative was 95 per cent, true positive was 3 per cent as compared with false negative at 1 per cent, and false positive at 0.5 per cent. US technicians performed 81 per cent of the FASTs with an accuracy of 92 per cent. In comparison, surgical residents had a 92 per cent rate of accuracy in the remaining 19 per cent of the population. The mean accuracy of both was 94 per cent. Furthermore, FAST as performed by resident incurred a single fee of $88 for radiological readings as compared with $274 for an US technician fee plus the radiological reading fee of $88. FAST as performed by surgical residents is more cost-effective than FAST as performed by an US technician.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • False Negative Reactions
  • False Positive Reactions
  • General Surgery* / education
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Operating Room Technicians / economics*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Ultrasonography / economics*