Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) practices in the helicopter emergency medical services in Europe: results of an online survey

Scand J Trauma Resusc Emerg Med. 2021 Aug 26;29(1):124. doi: 10.1186/s13049-021-00933-y.


Background: The extent to which Point-of-care of ultrasound (POCUS) is used in different European helicopter EMS (HEMS) is unknown. We aimed to study the availability, perception, and future aspects of POCUS in the European HEMS using an online survey.

Method: A survey about the use of POCUS in HEMS was conducted by a multinational steering expert committee and was carried out from November 30, 2020 to December 30, 2020 via an online web portal. Invitations for participation were sent via email to the medical directors of the European HEMS organizations including two reminding notes.

Results: During the study period, 69 participants from 25 countries and 41 different HEMS providers took part in the survey. 96% (n = 66) completed the survey. POCUS was available in 75% (56% always when needed and 19% occasionally) of the responding HEMS organizations. 17% were planning to establish POCUS in the near future. Responders who provided POCUS used it in approximately 15% of the patients. Participants thought that POCUS is important in both trauma and non-trauma-patients (73%, n = 46). The extended focused assessment sonography for trauma (eFAST) protocol (77%) was the most common protocol used. A POCUS credentialing process including documented examinations was requested in less than one third of the HEMS organizations.

Conclusions: The majority of the HEMS organizations in Europe are able to provide different POCUS protocols in their services. The most used POCUS protocols were eFAST, FATE and RUSH. Despite the enthusiasm for POCUS, comprehensive training and clear credentialing processes are not available in about two thirds of the European HEMS organizations. Due to several limitations of this survey further studies are needed to evaluate POCUS in HEMS.

Keywords: Emergency medicine; Helicopter emergency medical service; Point-of-care ultrasound; Pre-hospital care; Survey.

MeSH terms

  • Air Ambulances*
  • Aircraft
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • Point-of-Care Systems