Introduction: Point of care ultrasonography (PoCUS) is an established tool in the initial management of hypotensive patients in the emergency department (ED). It has been shown rule out certain shock etiologies, and improve diagnostic certainty, however evidence on benefit in the management of hypotensive patients is limited. We report the findings from our international multicenter RCT assessing the impact of a PoCUS protocol on diagnostic accuracy, as well as other key outcomes including mortality, which are reported elsewhere. Methods: Recruitment occurred at 4 North American and 3 Southern African sites. Screening at triage identified patients (SBP<100 mmHg or shock index >1) who were randomized to either PoCUS or control groups. Scans were performed by PoCUS-trained physicians. Demographics, clinical details and findings were collected prospectively. Initial and secondary diagnoses were recorded at 0 and 60 minutes, with ultrasound performed in the PoCUS group prior to secondary assessment. Final chart review was blinded to initial impressions and PoCUS findings. Categorical data was analyzed using Fishers two-tailed test. Our sample size was powered at 0.80 (α:0.05) for a moderate effect size. Results: 258 patients were enrolled with follow-up fully completed. Baseline comparisons confirmed effective randomization. The perceived shock category changed more frequently in the PoCUS group 20/127 (15.7%) vs. control 7/125 (5.6%); RR 2.81 (95% CI 1.23 to 6.42; p=0.0134). There was no significant difference in change of diagnostic impression between groups PoCUS 39/123 (31.7%) vs control 34/124 (27.4%); RR 1.16 (95% CI 0.786 to 1.70; p=0.4879). There was no significant difference in the rate of correct category of shock between PoCUS (118/127; 93%) and control (113/122; 93%); RR 1.00 (95% CI 0.936 to 1.08; p=1.00), or for correct diagnosis; PoCUS 90/127 (70%) vs control 86/122 (70%); RR 0.987 (95% CI 0.671 to 1.45; p=1.00). Conclusion: This is the first RCT to compare PoCUS to standard care for undifferentiated hypotensive ED patients. We found that the use of PoCUS did change physicians’ perceived shock category. PoCUS did not improve diagnostic accuracy for category of shock or diagnosis.
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