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The Focused Assessment with Sonography in Trauma (FAST) exam is a rapid ultrasound test to identify evidence of hemorrhage within the abdomen. Few studies examine the accuracy of paramedic performed FAST examinations. The duration of an ultrasound training program remains controversial. This study's purpose was to assess the accuracy of paramedic FAST exam interpretation following a one hour didactic training session.
The interpretation of paramedic performed FAST exams was compared to the interpretation of physician performed FAST examinations on a mannequin model containing 300ml of free fluid following a one hour didactic training course. Results were compared using the Chi-square test. Differences in accuracy rate were deemed significant if p < 0.05.
Fourteen critical care flight paramedics and four emergency physicians were voluntarily recruited. The critical care paramedics were mostly ultrasound-naive whereas the emergency physicians all had ultrasound training. The correct interpretation of FAST scans was comparable between the two groups with accuracy of 85.6% and 87.5% (∆1.79 95%CI -33.85 to 21.82, p = 0.90) for paramedics and emergency physicians respectively.
This study determined that critical care paramedics were able to use ultrasound to detect free fluid on a simulated mannequin model and interpret the FAST exam with a similar accuracy as experienced emergency physicians following a one hour training course. This suggests the potential use of prehospital ultrasound to aid in the triage and transport decisions of trauma patients while limiting the financial and logistical burden of ultrasound training.
Point of care ultrasound (POCUS) is an essential tool for physicians to guide treatment decisions in both hospital and prehospital settings. Despite the potential patient care and system utilization benefits of prehospital ultrasound, the financial burden of a “hands-on” training program for large numbers of paramedics remains a barrier to implementation. In this study, we conducted a prospective, observational, double-blinded study comparing paramedics to emergency physicians in their ability to generate usable abdominal ultrasound images after a 1-hour didactic training session.
Canadian aeromedical critical care paramedics were compared against emergency medicine physicians in their ability to generate adequate abdominal ultrasound images on five healthy volunteers. Quality of each scan was evaluated by a trained expert in POCUS who was blinded to the identity of the participant using a 5-point Likert scale and using the standardized QUICk Focused Assessment with Sonography in Trauma (FAST) assessment tool.
Fourteen Critical care paramedics and four emergency department (ED) physicians were voluntarily recruited. Of paramedics, 57% had never used ultrasound before, 36% has used ultrasound without formal training, and 7% had previous training. Physicians had a higher proportion of usable scans compared with paramedics (100% v. 61.4%, Δ38.6%; 95% confidence interval, 19.3–50.28).
Paramedics were not able to produce images of interpretable quality at the same frequency when compared with emergency medicine physicians. However, a 61.4% usable image rate for paramedics following a short 1-hour didactic training session is promising for future studies, which could incorporate a short hands-on tutorial while remaining cost-effective.
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