Effect of Emergency Physician-Performed Point-of-Care Ultrasound and Radiology Department-Performed Ultrasound Examinations on the Emergency Department Length of Stay Among Pregnant Women at Less Than 20 Weeks' Gestation

J Ultrasound Med. 2018 Nov;37(11):2497-2505. doi: 10.1002/jum.14607. Epub 2018 Mar 25.


Objectives: We sought to confirm retrospective studies that measured an approximately 20% reduction in emergency department (ED) length of stay (LOS) in early-gestation pregnant women who receive emergency physician-performed point-of-care ultrasound (US) examinations rather than radiology department-performed US examinations for evaluation of intrauterine pregnancy (IUP).

Methods: A randomized controlled clinical trial was performed at an urban academic safety net hospital and 2 Naval medical centers in the United States. The allocation was concealed before enrollment. Clinically stable adult pregnant women at less than 20 weeks' gestation who presented to the ED with abdominal pain or vaginal bleeding were randomized to receive a point-of-care or radiology US to assess for IUP. The primary outcome measure was the ED LOS.

Results: A total of 224 patients (point-of-care US, n = 118; radiology US, n = 106) were included for the analysis. The ED LOS was 20 minutes shorter in the point-of-care US arm (95% confidence interval [CI], -54 to 7 minutes). Adjusting for variability due to the location, the ED LOS was calculated to be 31 minutes shorter (95% CI, -64 to 1 minute) than for patients in the radiology US arm. Excluding patients in the point-of-care US arm who crossed over to radiology US after an inconclusive point-of-care US examination, the ED LOS was 75 minutes shorter than in the radiology US arm (95% CI, -97 to -53 minutes).

Conclusions: Early-gestation pregnant ED patients requiring pelvic US were discharged earlier when point-of-care US was used rather than radiology US; however, this trial did not achieve our target of 30 minutes. Nevertheless, our data support the routine use of ED point-of-care US for IUP, saving the most time if a conclusive IUP is identified.

Keywords: ectopic pregnancy; intrauterine pregnancy; length of stay; obstetrics (first trimester); point-of-care ultrasound; practice administration.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data*
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Point-of-Care Systems*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Radiology Department, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal / methods*
  • Young Adult