Applied Evidence

Point-of-care ultrasound: Coming soon to primary care?

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With a little training, FPs can successfully use point-of-care ultrasound for various cardiac, pulmonary, and vascular assessments.


 

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Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) has been gaining greater traction in recent years as a way to quickly (and cost-effectively) assess for conditions including systolic dysfunction, pleural effusion, abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs), and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). It involves limited and specific ultrasound protocols performed at the bedside by the health care provider who is trying to answer a specific question and, thus, help guide treatment of the patient.

POCUS was first widely used by emergency physicians starting in the early 1990s with the widespread adoption of the Focused Assessment with Sonography in Trauma (FAST) scan.1,2 Since that time, POCUS has expanded beyond trauma applications and into family medicine.

One study assessed physicians’ perceptions of POCUS after its integration into a military family medicine clinic. The study showed that physicians perceived POCUS to be relatively easy to use, not overly time consuming, and of high value to the practice.3 In fact, the literature tells us that POCUS can help decrease the cost of health care and improve outcomes,4-7 while requiring a relatively brief training period.

Point-of-care ultrasound: Coming soon to primary care image

If residencies are any indication, POCUS may be headed your way

Ultrasound units are becoming smaller and more affordable, and medical schools are increasingly incorporating ultrasound curricula into medical student training.8 As of 2016, only 6% of practicing FPs reported using non-obstetric POCUS in their practices.9 Similarly, a survey from 2015 reported that only 2% of family medicine residency programs had established POCUS curricula.10 However, 50% of respondents in the 2015 survey reported early-stage development or interest in developing a POCUS curriculum.

Since then a validated family medicine residency curriculum has been published,11 and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recently released a POCUS Curriculum Guideline for residencies (https://www.aafp.org/dam/AAFP/documents/medical_education_residency/program_directors/Reprint290D_POCUS.pdf).

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