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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Variable Access to Immediate Bedside Ultrasound in the Emergency Department

Creative Commons 'BY-NC' version 4.0 license

Objective: Use of bedside emergency department (ED) ultrasound has become increasingly important for the clinical practice of emergency medicine (EM). We sought to evaluate differences in the availability of immediate bedside ultrasound based on basic ED characteristics and physician staffing.

Methods: We surveyed ED directors in all 351 EDs in Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Oregon between January and April 2009. We assessed access to bedside ED ultrasound by the question: “Is bedside ultrasound available immediately in the ED?” ED characteristics included location, visit volume, admission rate, percent uninsured, total emergency physician full-time equivalents and proportion of EM board-certified (BC) or EM board-eligible (BE) physicians. Data analysis used chi-square tests and multivariable logistical regression to compare differences in access to bedside ED ultrasound by ED characteristics and staffing.

Results: We received complete responses from 298 (85%) EDs. Immediate access to bedside ultrasound was available in 175 (59%) EDs. ED characteristics associated with access to bedside ultrasound were: location (39% for rural vs. 71% for urban, P20%] rates, P<0.001); and EM BC/BE physicians (26% for EDs with a low percentage [0-20%] vs.74% for EDs with a high percentage [≥80%], P<0.001).

Conclusion: U.S. EDs differ significantly in their access to immediate bedside ultrasound. Smaller, rural EDs and those staffed by fewer EM BC/BE physicians more frequently lacked access to immediate bedside ultrasound in the ED. [West J Emerg Med. 2011;12(1):96-99.]

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