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Image Quality and Technical Limitations in Emergency Department Cardiac Point-Of-Care Ultrasound: A Retrospective Cohort Study


To assess the image quality and common technical limitations seen on cardiac point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) performed and archived in a single New Zealand ED.


A retrospective cohort study of clinically indicated cardiac POCUS, archived from 1 October 2019 to 20 May 2020. Archived examinations were retrospectively reviewed by an ED POCUS expert, and an expert cardiac sonographer to determine diagnostic image quality, technical limitations present and opportunities for image quality improvement. Image quality of credentialed examinations was compared to uncredentialed examinations and examinations that were undocumented in the medical record.


A total of 211 cardiac POCUS examinations were included. The impact of image quality on diagnostic interpretation was only documented in <2% of examinations. There was no difference in median global image quality scores for uncredentialed and credentialed examinations (8.5 vs 9, P = 0.55) and median score for undocumented examinations (5.5) was lower than credentialed examinations (P < 0.01). Common technical limitations identified were off-axis imaging and artefacts limiting image quality.


In the present study of clinically indicated cardiac POCUS, low image quality was common but the impact of image quality on diagnostic interpretation was very rarely documented in the medical record. Local quality assurance and training should be directed at credentialed and uncredentialed clinicians including strategies to improve off-axis imaging and managing artefacts where possible. Standardised documentation of image quality that may impact diagnostic accuracy should be encouraged.


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