Lung ultrasound for pneumothorax by paramedics

This UK study showed that paramedics could successfully acquire and identify lung ultrasound images after a two day course. The course covered the identification and management of patients who present with serious thoracic injury, with a specific focus on the use of thoracic ultrasound during early prehospital assessment. Standard 2D images for pleural sliding and comet tails and M-Mode for the ‘seashore sign’ were acquired, and colour Doppler was also used to assist in the identification of pleural sliding.


Objective This trial investigated whether advanced paramedics from a UK regional ambulance service have the ability to acquire and interpret diagnostic quality ultrasound images following a 2-day programme of education and training covering the fundamental aspects of lung ultrasound.

Method The participants were tested using a two-part examination; assessing both their theoretical understanding of image interpretation and their practical ability to acquire diagnostic quality ultrasound images. The results obtained were subsequently compared with those obtained from expert physician sonographers.

Results The advanced paramedics demonstrated an overall accuracy in identifying the presence or absence of pneumothorax in M-mode clips of 0.94 (CI 0.86 to 0.99), compared with the experts who achieved 0.93 (CI 0.67 to 1.0). In two-dimensional mode, the advanced paramedics demonstrated an overall accuracy of 0.78 (CI 0.72 to 0.83), compared with the experts who achieved 0.76 (CI 0.62 to 0.86). In total, the advanced paramedics demonstrated an overall accuracy at identifying the presence or absence of pneumothorax in prerecorded video clip images of 0.82 (CI 0.77 to 0.86), in comparison
with the expert users of 0.80 (CI 0.68 to 0.88). All of the advanced paramedics passed the objective structured clinical examination and achieved a practical standard considered by the examiners to be equivalent to that which would be expected from candidates enrolled on the thoracic module of the College of Emergency Medicine level 2 ultrasound programme.

Conclusion This trial demonstrated that ultrasound-naive practitioners can achieve an acceptable standard of competency in a simulated environment in a relatively short period of time.

Acquisition and interpretation of focused diagnostic ultrasound images by ultrasound-naive advanced paramedics: trialling a PHUS education programme
Emerg Med J, 2012 vol. 29 (4) pp. 322-326