Utility of point-of-care musculoskeletal ultrasound in the evaluation of emergency department musculoskeletal pathology

World J Emerg Med. 2018;9(4):262-266. doi: 10.5847/wjem.j.1920-8642.2018.04.004.


Background: To evaluate the utilization of point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) for the assessment of emergency department (ED) patients with musculoskeletal symptoms and the impact of musculoskeletal POCUS on medical decision-making and patient management in the ED.

Methods: This was a retrospective review of ED patients presenting with musculoskeletal symptoms who received a POCUS over a 3.5-year period. An ED POCUS database was reviewed for musculoskeletal POCUS examinations used for medical decision-making. Electronic medical records were then reviewed for demographic characteristics, history, physical examination findings, ED course, additional imaging studies, and impact of musculoskeletal POCUS on patient management in ED.

Results: A total of 264 subjects (92 females, 172 males) and 292 musculoskeletal POCUS examinations were included in the final analysis. Most common symptomatic sites were knee (31.8%) and ankle (16.3%). Joint effusion was the most common finding on musculoskeletal POCUS, noted in 33.7% of the patients, and subcutaneous edema/cobblestoning was found in 10.2% of the patients. Muscle or tendon rupture was found in 2.3% of the patients, and 1.9% of the patients had joint dislocation. Bursitis or bursa fluid was found in 3.4% of patients, and tendonitis/tendinopathy was found in 2.3%. Twenty percent of them were ultrasound-guided musculoskeletal procedures, and most of them (73.3%) were arthrocentesis. Of the included studies, all except three either changed or helped guide patient management as documented in the patients' medical records.

Conclusion: Our study findings illustrate the utility of POCUS in the evaluation of a variety of musculoskeletal pathologies in the ED.

Keywords: Emergency department; Musculoskeletal; Point-of-care ultrasound.