Background: Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) is a tool in increasing use, but there is still a lack of basics for its routine use and evidence of its impact in intensive care.
Objective: To measure the impact of POCUS on resource utilization, diagnostic accuracy, and clinical management in medical-surgical intensive care units (ICUs).
Methods: Prospective, controlled study, in two polyvalent ICUs. The patients were randomly assigned to POCUS or control group.
Interventions: POCUS patients received systematic ultrasound examination of optic nerve, lung/pleura, heart, abdomen, and venous system, performed at the bedside by trained intensivists. Control patients were treated by critical care specialists who do not perform ultrasound in their clinical practice.
Results: We included 80 patients, 40 per group. There were no significant differences in age, sex, APACHE II score, or admission diagnosis. POCUS group used fewer resources per patient in the first 5 days of hospitalization: chest radiography (2.6 ± 2.0 vs 4.1 ± 3.5, P = 0.01), additional ultrasound evaluations performed by a radiology specialist (0.6 ± 0.7 vs 1.1 ± 0.7, P = 0.002), and computed tomography studies (0.5 ± 0.6 vs 0.9 ± 0.7, P = 0.007). Time to perform any requested ultrasound evaluation after ICU admission was 2.1 ± 1.6 h versus 7.7 ± 6.7 h (P = 0.001). Systematic ultrasound evaluation led to better characterization of ICU admission diagnosis in 14 (35%) patients and change in clinical management in 24 (60%). POCUS group had lower fluid balance at 48 and 96 h after admission (P = 0.01) and spent less time mechanically ventilated (5.1 ± 5.7 days vs 8.8 ± 9.4, P = 0.03).
Conclusions: Systematic application of POCUS may decrease utilization of conventional diagnostic imaging resources and time of mechanical ventilation, and facilitate meticulous intravenous fluid administration in critically ill patients during the first week of stay in the ICU. Trial registration ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03608202.
Keywords: Clinical impact; Critical care; Diagnostic techniques and procedures; Point-of-care systems; Point-of-care ultrasound; Ultrasound protocol.