The stethoscope is such a normalized piece of equipment, it is constantly associated with the medical field. Doctors, nurses, physician assistants, and even dress up sets are rarely seen without a stethoscope slung around the neck or tucked away in a pocket. The stethoscope wasn’t always a part of routine medical examinations, however, and the use of this equipment revolutionized the field and care of patients. Just as the stethoscope altered medicine in the early 1800s, so too is point of care ultrasound, or POCUS. Ultrasound technology is being fine tuned and used in various medical settings, changing much about diagnostic and management in patient care.
History of POCUS
Whereas the stethoscope listens to what is inside the body, ultrasound, and it’s use of sound waves helps doctors and others view internal aspects of the body. And while ultrasound technology is most commonly associated with obstetrics to view and monitor pregnancies, this technology has been used in a variety of medical settings since it’s implementation in the middle of the 20th Century. Even the first grainy and blurry images gave medical professionals a better idea of what was taking place inside their patients and as technology improved and skills were built, more and more was discovered about all parts of the human body.
Use of POCUS
Ultrasound has spread from obstetric use into the emergency room setting over the past few decades, but most other departments in hospitals have been slower to implement use of point of care ultrasound. According to healthmanagement.org, “the ultrasound today is considered indispensable within the emergency department.” While in other departments, patients have been sent out for imaging, causing a delay in diagnosis and treatment. Point of care ultrasound is effectively used in numerous settings, from gastrointestinal issues to cardiac issues to exploring trauma as it develops. Two professions that stand to receive a large gain from wider education about and implementation of POCUS are EMT and field doctors. By gaining large amounts of information about what is taking place inside a patient’s body, medical staff can make life saving decisions.
Benefits of POCUS
One of the limiting factors in years past was the size of the ultrasound machine itself. Advancements have compressed the technology to such a degree that handheld, pocket sized versions are now readily available on the market. Additionally, the tool allows for much more specific diagnosis to take place at the bedside and for much more accurate diagnostic information to be given. One study from JACC Cardiovascular Imaging, cited by healthmanagement.org, shows ultrasound correctly identified particular issues in 82% of patients as opposed to a 47% detection rate with physical examination only. One additional benefit of point of care ultrasound is the stability it provides medical issues that may be developing over the course of a day, health providers can compare information through several imaging sessions to monitor and make treatment decisions. One perceived benefit of the stethoscope is the proximity it allows between medical provider and patient. With a small, portable ultrasound device, used by a trained doctor or other provider, the same proximity can be achieved.
The future of medicine is changing rapidly, especially as POCUS becomes the standard rather than the exception. To learn how to use point of care ultrasound in your medical practice, Maverick Medical Education has a course with practical and academic knowledge paired with hands on practice. See our course schedule or contact us today.