There is increasing recognition that point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS), performed by the clinician at the bedside, can be a natural extension of the clinical examination-the modern abdominal "stethoscope" and provides an opportunity to expedite the care pathway for patients with acute gallbladder disease. The primary aims of this study were to benchmark the accuracy of surgeon-performed POCUS in suspected acute gallbladder disease against standard radiology or pathology reports and to compare time to POCUS diagnosis with time to definitive imaging. This prospective single-arm observational cohort study was conducted in four hospitals in Ireland, Italy, and Portugal to assess the accuracy of POCUS against standard radiology in patients with suspected acute biliary disease (ClinicalTrials.govIdentifier: NCT02682368). The findings of surgeon-performed POCUS were compared with those on definitive imaging or surgery. Of 100 patients recruited, 89 were suitable for comparative analysis, comparing POCUS with radiological findings in 84 patients and with surgical/histological findings in five. The overall global accuracy of POCUS was 88.7% (95% CI, 80.3-94.4%), with a sensitivity of 94.7% (95% CI, 85.3-98.9%), a specificity of 78.1% (95% CI, 60.03-90.7%), a positive likelihood ratio (LR+) of 4.33 and negative likelihood ratio (LR) of 0.07. The mean time from POCUS to the final radiological report was 11.9 h (range 0.06-54.9). In five patients admitted directly to surgery, the mean time between POCUS and incision was 2.30 h (range 1.5-5), which was significantly shorter than the mean time to formal radiology report. Sixteen patients were discharged from the emergency department, of whom nine did not need follow-up. Our study is one of the very few to demonstrate a high concordance between surgeon-performed POCUS of patients without a priori radiologic diagnosis of gallstone disease and shows that the expedited diagnosis afforded by POCUS can be reliably leveraged to deliver earlier definitive care for patients with acute gallbladder pathology, as the general surgeon skilled in POCUS is uniquely positioned to integrate it into their bedside assessment.
Keywords: cholecystectomy; cholecystitis; gallbladder; point-of-care; ultrasonography.