Introduction: In the United States, there are limited studies regarding use of prehospital ultrasound (US) by emergency medical service (EMS) providers. Field diagnosis of life-threatening conditions using US could be of great utility. This study assesses the ability of EMS providers and students to accurately interpret heart and lung US images.
Methods: We tested certified emergency medical technicians (EMT-B) and paramedics (EMT-P) as well as EMT-B and EMT-P students enrolled in prehospital training programs within two California counties. Participants completed a pre-test of sonographic imaging of normal findings and three pathologic findings: pericardial effusion, pneumothorax, and cardiac standstill. A focused one-hour lecture on emergency US imaging followed. Post-tests were given to all EMS providers immediately following the lecture and to a subgroup one week later.
Results: We enrolled 57 prehospital providers (19 EMT-B students, 16 EMT-P students, 18 certified EMT-B, and 4 certified EMT-P). The mean pre-test score was 65.2%±12.7% with mean immediate post-test score of 91.1%±7.9% (95% CI [22%-30%], p<0.001)). Scores significantly improved for all three pathologic findings. Nineteen subjects took the one-week post-test. Their mean score remained significantly higher: pre-test 65.8%±10.7%; immediate post-test 90.5%±7.0% (95% CI [19%-31%], p<0.001), one-week post-test 93.1%±8.3% (95% CI [21%-34%], p<0.001).
Conclusion: Using a small sample of EMS providers and students, this study shows the potential feasibility for educating prehospital providers to accurately identify images of pericardial effusion, pneumothorax, and cardiac standstill after a focused lecture.