Although emergency ultrasound (EU) is gaining popularity, EU is performed in a minority of emergency departments (EDs). The perception may exist that EU is too time-consuming. This study sought to determine the duration of EUs performed for the primary indications by staff emergency physicians (EPs).
A prospective, time–motion study was conducted on a convenience sample of EUs at the Sudbury Regional Hospital ED from June to August 2006. All EPs had Canadian EU certification. A research assistant timed EUs. Primary EU indications in Canada are: cardiac arrest evaluation, rule-out pericardial effusion, rule-out intraperitoneal free fluid in trauma, rule-out abdominal aortic aneurysm, and rule-in intrauterine pregnancy. Descriptive statistics are reported.
Eleven EPs performed 66 EUs for the primary indications on 51 patients. The mean EU duration was 137.8 s (range 11–465; CI 123.0–162.6). There was no difference in the duration of EUs performed by the two most experienced EPs (n = 37; duration = 129.4; CI = 96.4–162.4) compared to the other EPs (n = 29; duration = 148.4; CI = 110.6–186.2). Although subgroups were small, positive (n = 8; duration = 199.4; CI = 97.4–301.4), negative (n = 49; duration = 123.3; CI = 97.9–148.7), and indeterminate (n = 9; duration = 161.6; CI = 91.5–231.7) EUs did not differ in duration. There is some suggestion of differences in duration between types of EU, although again the subgroups were small: cardiac (n = 21; duration = 90.3; CI = 62.6–118.0), abdominal (n = 22; duration = 157.1; CI = 111.9–202.3), aneurysm (n = 15; duration = 170.1; CI = 117.5–222.7), transabdominal pelvic (n = 5; duration = 89.8; CI = 40.3–139.1), transvaginal (n = 3; duration = 246.0; CI = 30.6–461.4).
When performed by staff EPs with EU certification, mean EU duration for the primary indications was brief regardless of EP’s experience, EU type, or results.