Diagnostic accuracy and temporal impact of ultrasound in patients with dyspnea admitted to the emergency department

Clin Exp Emerg Med. 2019 Sep;6(3):226-234. doi: 10.15441/ceem.18.072. Epub 2019 Sep 11.


Objective: Few studies have prospectively evaluated the diagnostic accuracy and temporal impact of ultrasound in the emergency department (ED) in a randomized manner. In this study, we aimed to perform a randomized, standard therapy controlled evaluation of the diagnostic accuracy and temporal impact of a standardized ultrasound strategy, versus standard care, in patients presenting to the ED with acute dyspnea.

Methods: The patients underwent a standardized ultrasound examination that was blinded to the team caring for the patient. Ultrasound results remained blinded in patients randomized to the treating team but were unblinded in the interventional cohort. Scans were performed by trained emergency physicians. The gold standard diagnosis (GSDx) was determined by two physicians blinded to the ultrasound results. The same two physicians reviewed all data >30 days after the index visit.

Results: Fifty-nine randomized patients were enrolled. The mean±standard deviation age was 54.4±11 years, and 37 (62%) were male. The most common GSDx was acute heart failure with reduced ejection fraction in 13 (28.3%) patients and airway diseases such as acute exacerbation of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in 10 (21.7%). ED diagnostic accuracy, as compared to the GSDx, was 76% in the ultrasound cohort and 79% in the standard care cohort (P=0.796). Compared with the standard care cohort, the final diagnosis was obtained much faster in the ultrasound cohort (mean±standard deviation: 12±3.2 minutes vs. 270 minutes, P<0.001).

Conclusion: A standardized ultrasound approach is equally accurate, but enables faster ED diagnosis of acute dyspnea than standard care.

Keywords: Diagnostic imaging; Dyspnea; Emergencies.