Aim: Groin ultrasound scan (USS) is used to aid the diagnosis of inguinal hernias. Our radiology department offers access to image symptomatic patients for general practitioners (GPs) as well as surgeons. We examined the utilisation of groin USS in primary and secondary healthcare settings, and investigated its influence on proceeding to surgery.
Methods: A retrospective data analysis was performed for patients seen in the surgical outpatient clinics (January 2010-January 2011). Clinical, radiological, and surgical findings were compared.
Results: 267 USS were performed by musculoskeletal radiology specialists; patients were referred for USS by GPs in 98 cases (36.7 %), compared to 169 cases (63.3 %) where the referral for USS was organised by surgeons. Clinical examination by surgeons detected inguinal hernias in 105 groins (39.3 %), and USS detected inguinal hernias in 154 groins (57.7 %). Of 162/267 (60.7 %) cases where clinical examination was negative, 98/162 (60.4 %) also had a negative USS; only five of these patients (5.1 %) underwent surgery. In the 64/162 (39.6 %) cases where only the USS findings were positive, 19/64 underwent surgery (29.7 %). When hernia was detected on both USS and clinical examination (n = 90), 68/90 underwent surgery (75.6 %). For patients who underwent surgery, sensitivity for hernia detection was 80 % for clinical examination versus 96.3 % for USS.
Conclusion: Groin USS is highly sensitive, and patients could be referred for USS by GPs when clinical examination findings are equivocal or negative. If USS is also negative, patients may be managed conservatively in primary care setting if they remain asymptomatic. Positive clinical examination findings appear to have a greater influence in the decision to treat surgically.