“Point-of-Care Ultrasound is the Future Stethoscope for Every Clinician”

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I have discussed elsewhere the view that ultrasound could eventually replace the stethoscope for point-of-care diagnosis, and while we are a long way off frontline clinicians universally adopting the technology, recent studies show reasons to be positive if and when the time comes.

According to a review recently published in Annals of Family Medicine, point-of-care ultrasound provided diagnostic capabilities in several clinical areas and reduced costs overall.

Camilla Aakjær Andersen, MD, of Aalborg University Fyrkildevej in Denmark, told Healio Primary Care Today:

“Point-of-care ultrasound is the future stethoscope for every clinician. Point-of-care ultrasound empowers the primary care physician by providing more diagnostic information or increasing precision in clinical procedures,”

With the advent of the smart stethoscope and the increasing reliability of diagnosis using AI, the view that the point-of-care ultrasound could realistically replace the stethoscope is a stretch in my humble opinion.

That being said, Aakjær Andersen goes on to explain other significant benefits in the use of ultrasound.

“The physician may use point-of-care ultrasound to guide simple clinical procedures, such as venous access or joint injections, as point-of-care ultrasound allows the physician to locate and follow the needle’s way through the tissue real-time on the screen. This way, precision improves.”

Clearly this is a use that goes beyond the function of the stethoscope.

A more accurate statement for the emerging wide-spread use of point of care ultra sound is not that it is the future stethoscope, but that it could possible enjoy major adoption by clinicians, in the manner the stethoscope has for last 200 years.

The statistical findings reported in the review are impressive however.

The 51 studies Andersen and colleagues reviewed found that point-of-care ultrasound provided the following % results:

51 studies reported that point-of-care ultrasound provided the following

False positives were reported in:
  • 7% to 3.2% of obstetric examinations;
  • 5% to 9.9% of abdominal examinations;
  • 4% to 33.3% of all cardiac examinations;
  • 93% of renal cell carcinoma examinations;
  • 7% to 12.1% of broad health-check screenings;
  • 18% of carotid artery screenings; and
  • 4% of aorta screenings.

Another benefit of the technology is that portable; point-of-care ultrasound does not require years of experience to use. Simple examinations can be achieved after only a few hours of training. Furthermore, they can be carried out in less than 10 minutes.

Simplicity and speedy application will all go towards helping the technology find more widespread use.

Furthermore, the price of point-of-care ultrasound has decreased significantly in recent years. More PCPs will be able to take advantage of the technology as a result.

The review went on to state that 65.6% of carried out scans removed the need for further testing. That is a significant development in far as front-line medical efficiency.

Also, 83% of patients were comfortable paying extra to have an ultrasound examination performed by their GP.

Results like this go a long way to highlight how point-of-care ultrasound could a significant increase in use by clinicians.

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About Dr. Philip Goddard

Dr Philip Steven Goddard is a leading consultant cardiologist currently based in Nottingham, UK. He specialises in pulmonary hypertension and general adult cardiology. Alongside his clinical work, Dr Philip Goddard has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals, and has presented internationally in the USA, Europe, and Asia.

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