Prehospital Extended FAST Exams Improve Clinical Decision Making by Helicopter EMS Crews: A Retrospective Case Series

Prehosp Emerg Care. 2024 Mar 4:1-8. doi: 10.1080/10903127.2024.2320746. Online ahead of print.


Point of Care Ultrasound (POCUS) has seen increasing use in the prehospital environment over the last decade, primarily with the extended focused assessment with sonography in trauma (eFAST) exam. Previous studies have shown prehospital eFAST exams are feasible in the helicopter transport environment but have yet to demonstrate effects on clinical care. This retrospective case series identified 655 patients with blunt thoraco-abdominal trauma or concern for pneumothorax due to penetrating injury transported by a single helicopter EMS (HEMS) program over a two-year period after introducing POCUS. Of those patients, 258 received prehospital ultrasound which was reported to change clinical care in seven cases (2.7%, 95%-CI [1.1-5.5]). This was primarily through preventing unnecessary needle thoracostomy and initiating blood transfusion for treatment of hemorrhagic shock in cases where the degree of shock was unclear due to inconsistent vital signs. This study highlights the improvements in clinical care that may result from the introduction of eFAST exams in the prehospital environment.