Objectives: The purpose of this study was to compare the results of physical examinations (PEs) performed by board-certified cardiologists with the results of point-of-care (POC) echocardiography in a group of patients with cardiovascular disease.
Background: Although cardiovascular PE is crucial in the evaluation of patients with suspected heart disease, the skills required to diagnose abnormal cardiovascular findings have been declining. Echocardiography is a powerful noninvasive cardiovascular diagnostic tool; however, echocardiographic evaluation of patients is not performed at the time of patient encounter (POC echocardiography), beacuse current platforms are cumbersome and expensive for individual physician use. The development of miniaturized echocardiographic equipment has the potential to overcome some of these limitations.
Methods: Thirty-six subjects had a complete cardiovascular examination by four board-certified cardiologists. The physicians subsequently imaged each patient using a miniaturized echocardiographic platform. The yield of PE and POC echocardiography were compared using a complete echocardiographic study as the gold standard, performed on an upper-end platform.
Results: Cardiac examination failed to detect 59% of the overall cardiovascular findings. Physician-performed echocardiography with the prototype device missed 29% of the overall cardiovascular pathology. When considering only the major cardiovascular findings, the cardiologists' PEs still failed to correctly detect 43%. Point-of-care echocardiography reduced this to 21% without significant interphysician variation.
Conclusions: Point-of-care echocardiography using a miniaturized echocardiographic platform substantially improved the detection of important cardiovascular pathology compared with PE. Use of this device by a cardiovascular specialist with training in echocardiography as a routine adjunct to PE appears to be useful.