Basic ultrasound head-to-toe skills for intensivists in the general and neuro intensive care unit population: consensus and expert recommendations of the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine

Intensive Care Med. 2021 Dec;47(12):1347-1367. doi: 10.1007/s00134-021-06486-z. Epub 2021 Oct 5.


Purpose: To provide consensus, and a list of experts' recommendations regarding the basic skills for head-to-toe ultrasonography in the intensive care setting.

Methods: The Executive Committee of the European Society of Intensive Care (ESICM) commissioned the project and supervised the methodology and structure of the consensus. We selected an international panel of 19 expert clinicians-researchers in intensive care unit (ICU) with expertise in critical care ultrasonography (US), plus a non-voting methodologist. The panel was divided into five subgroups (brain, lung, heart, abdomen and vascular ultrasound) which identified the domains and generated a list of questions to be addressed by the panel. A Delphi process based on an iterative approach was used to obtain the final consensus statements. Statements were classified as a strong recommendation (84% of agreement), weak recommendation (74% of agreement), and no recommendation (less than 74%), in favor or against.

Results: This consensus produced a total of 74 statements (7 for brain, 20 for lung, 20 for heart, 20 for abdomen, 7 for vascular Ultrasound). We obtained strong agreement in favor for 49 statements (66.2%), 8 weak in favor (10.8%), 3 weak against (4.1%), and no consensus in 14 cases (19.9%). In most cases when consensus was not obtained, it was felt that the skills were considered as too advanced. A research agenda and discussion on training programs were implemented from the results of the consensus.

Conclusions: This consensus provides guidance for the basic use of critical care US and paves the way for the development of training and research projects.

Keywords: Abdominal ultrasound; Brain ultrasound; Consensus; Echocardiography; Intensive care unit; Lung ultrasound; Ultrasonography; Vascular ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Consensus
  • Critical Care*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Toes
  • Ultrasonography