Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Bedside General and Cardiac Ultrasonography in the Evaluation of Critically Ill Patients-Part I: General Ultrasonography

Crit Care Med. 2015 Nov;43(11):2479-502. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000001216.


Objective: To establish evidence-based guidelines for the use of bedside ultrasound by intensivists and specialists in the ICU and equivalent care sites for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes for organs of the chest, abdomen, pelvis, neck, and extremities.

Methods: The Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation system was used to determine the strength of recommendations as either strong or conditional/weak and to rank the "levels" of quality of evidence into high (A), moderate (B), or low (C) and thus generating six "grades" of recommendation (1A-1B-1C-2A-2B-2C). Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) was used for all questions with clinically relevant outcomes. RAND appropriateness method, incorporating modified Delphi technique, was used in steps of GRADE that required panel judgment and for those based purely on expert consensus. The process was conducted by teleconference and electronic-based discussion, following clear rules for establishing consensus and agreement/disagreement. Individual panel members provided full disclosure and were judged to be free of any commercial bias. The process was conducted independent of industry funding.

Results: Twenty-four statements regarding the use of ultrasound were considered-three did not achieve agreement and nine were approved as conditional recommendations (strength class 2). The remaining 12 statements were approved as strong recommendations (strength class 1). Each recommendation was also linked to its level of quality of evidence. Key strong recommendations included the use of ultrasonography for ruling-in pleural effusion and assisting its drainage, ascites drainage, ruling-in pneumothorax, central venous cannulation, particularly for internal jugular and femoral sites, and for diagnosis of deep venous thrombosis. Conditional recommendations were given to the use of ultrasound by the intensivist for diagnosis of acalculous cholecystitis, renal failure, and interstitial and parenchymal lung diseases. No recommendations were made regarding static (vs dynamic) ultrasound guidance of vascular access or the use of needle guide devices.

Conclusions: There was strong agreement among a large cohort of international experts regarding several recommendations for the use of ultrasound in the ICU. Evidence-based recommendations regarding the appropriate use of this technology are a step toward improving patient outcomes in relevant patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Critical Care / standards
  • Critical Illness
  • Echocardiography / standards*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Male
  • Point-of-Care Testing*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Quality Control
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler / standards*