Ultrasound applications are widespread, and their utility in resource-limited environments are numerous. In disasters, the use of ultrasound can help reallocate resources by guiding decisions on management and transportation priorities. These interventions can occur on-scene, at triage collection points, during transport, and at the receiving medical facility. Literature related to this specific topic is limited. However, literature regarding prehospital use of ultrasound, ultrasound in combat situations, and some articles specific to disaster medicine allude to the potential growth of ultrasound utilization in disaster response.
To evaluate the utility of point-of-care ultrasound in a disaster response based on studies involving ultrasonography in resource-limited environments.
A narrative review of MEDLINE, MEDLINE InProcess, EPub, and Embase found 20 articles for inclusion.
Experiences from past disasters, prehospital care, and combat experiences have demonstrated the value of ultrasound both as a diagnostic and interventional modality.
Current literature supports the use of ultrasound in disaster response as a real-time, portable, safe, reliable, repeatable, easy-to-use, and accurate tool. While both false positives and false negatives were reported in prehospital studies, these values correlate to accepted false positive and negative rates of standard in-hospital point-of-care ultrasound exams. Studies involving austere environments demonstrate the ability to apply ultrasound in extreme conditions and to obtain high-quality images with only modest training and real-time remote guidance. The potential for point-of-care ultrasound in triage and management of mass casualty incidents is there. However, as these studies are heterogeneous and observational in nature, further research is needed as to how to integrate ultrasound into the response and recovery phases.