Background: Point-of-care ultrasound often includes cardiac ultrasound. It is commonly used to evaluate cardiac function in critically ill patients but lacks the specific quantitative anatomic assessment afforded by standard transthoracic echocardiography (TTE). We developed the Focused Rapid Echocardiographic Examination (FREE), a hybrid between a cardiac ultrasound and TTE that places an emphasis on cardiac function rather than anatomy. We hypothesized that data obtained from FREE correlate well with TTE while providing actionable information for clinical decision making.
Methods: FREE examinations evaluating cardiac function (left ventricular ejection fraction), diastolic dysfunction (including early mitral Doppler flow [E] and early mitral tissue Doppler [E']), right ventricular function, cardiac output, preload (left ventricular internal dimension end diastole), stroke volume, stroke volume variation, inferior vena cava diameter, and inferior vena cava collapse were performed. Patients who underwent both a TTE and FREE on the same day were identified as the cohort, and quantitative measurements were compared. Correlation analyses were performed to assess levels of agreement.
Results: A total of 462 FREE examinations were performed, in which 69 patients had both a FREE and TTE. FREE ejection fraction was strongly correlated with TTE (r = 0.89, 95% confidence interval). Left ventricular outflow tract, left ventricular internal dimension end diastole, E, and lateral E' derived from FREE were also strongly correlated with TTE measurements (r = 0.83, r = 0.94, r = 0.77, and r = 0.88, respectively). In 82% of the patients, right ventricular function for FREE was the same as that reported for TTE; pericardial effusion was detected on both examinations in 94% of the cases. No significant valvular anatomy was missed with the FREE examination.
Conclusion: Functionally rather than anatomically based hybrid ultrasound examinations, like the FREE, facilitate decision making for critically ill patients. The FREE's functional assessment correlates well with TTE measurements and may be of significant clinical value in critically ill patients, especially when used in remote operating environments where resources are limited.
Level of evidence: Diagnostic test, level III.