Emergency physicians using ultrasound frequently encounter unfamiliar findings during routine ultrasound examination. This is especially common for less experienced practitioners.
Objective: To compare high-resolution thermal printer ultrasound images and images recorded and transmitted via commercial camera cell phones.
Methods: This was a study comparing randomly selected images of actual ultrasound examinations performed in an academic level I ED with hospital-based emergency ultrasound credentialing. Two hospital credentialed emergency sonologists with extensive experience were asked to review 50 randomly selected images from actual patients as seen on a camera cell phone screen after being captured from a high-resolution thermal printout and sent to a similar phone. Reviewers recorded initial impression of the image and identified structures, measurements, and pathology. After hearing a brief clinical vignette, reviewer rated the images for image quality, detail, resolution, as previously defined, on a 10-point Likert scale. This process was then repeated with the original thermal printouts. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, agreement analysis, and the Student t test.
Results: Reviewers showed good interrater agreement for pathology and structure detection between phone and thermal printer images. There was no statistically significant difference in image quality, resolution, and detail between phone images and thermal printer images. However, there was statistically significantly increase in confidence in diagnosis for reviewers when using thermal printer images as compared with phone images, P = .003 and P = .02. Several phone images were felt to be suboptimal, and there was moderate agreement on these between reviewers.
Conclusions: Ultrasound pictures recorded by one phone and then sent to another yielded images that showed no statistically significant differences from traditional high-resolution thermal printouts in image quality, detail, and resolution. Measurements were too small to be read on the camera phones, and reviewers had statistically significantly lower confidence in their diagnosis when using the camera phones to review images.