Diagnostic Yield and Accuracy of Bedside Echocardiography in the Emergency Department in Hemodynamically Stable Patients

J Ultrasound Med. 2019 Nov;38(11):2845-2851. doi: 10.1002/jum.14985. Epub 2019 Mar 18.


Objectives: The goal of this study was to determine the diagnostic yield of focused cardiac ultrasound (FOCUS) in hemodynamically stable patients in the emergency department and secondarily to confirm the accuracy of these studies when compared to formal echocardiography.

Methods: All hemodynamically stable adult patients who had an emergency physician-performed FOCUS examination completed over a 1-year period were identified using our electronic ultrasound database. Hemodynamic stability was defined as presenting systolic blood pressure higher than 90 mm Hg and not requiring any form of positive pressure ventilation.

Results: There were 1198 FOCUS examinations performed: 976 in hemodynamically stable patients who were included in our analysis. Twenty-seven percent of patients had new findings, including 154 (16%) new diagnoses of reduced left ventricular function, 105 (11%) new pericardial effusions, and 44 (5%) new diagnoses of RV dilatation. Dyspnea as an indication for the FOCUS examination was the strongest predictor of a positive study. Of patients included, 28% underwent formal echocardiography within 2 days and were analyzed for concordance with regard to left ventricular function and the presence of pericardial effusion. Of 270 studies, 208 were accurate, and 62 were inaccurate, for raw agreement of 77% (κ = 0.53). When stratified by sonographer experience, there was no impact on accuracy.

Conclusions: Focused cardiac ultrasound in the emergency department for hemodynamically stable patients revealed new findings in 27% of studies, with a modest correlation with formal echocardiography. In stable patients, FOCUS has the potential for rapid diagnosis of cardiac disease, particularly in patients with dyspnea.

Keywords: bedside ultrasound; echocardiography; emergency medicine; focused cardiac ultrasound.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Echocardiography / methods*
  • Echocardiography / standards
  • Echocardiography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Hemodynamics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Point-of-Care Systems / standards
  • Point-of-Care Systems / statistics & numerical data*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies