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Acad Emerg Med. 2003 Jan;10(1):37-42.

The status of bedside ultrasonography training in emergency medicine residency programs.

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  • 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk 23507, USA.


Bedside ultrasonography (BU) is rapidly being incorporated into emergency medicine (EM) training programs and clinical practice. In the past decade, several organizations in EM have issued position statements on the use of this technology. Program training content is currently driven by the recently published "Model of the Clinical Practice of Emergency Medicine," which includes BU as a necessary skill.


The authors sought to determine the current status of BU training in EM residency programs.


A survey was mailed in early 2001 to all 122 Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)-accredited EM residency programs. The survey instrument asked whether BU was currently being taught, how much didactic and hands-on training time was incorporated into the curriculum, and what specialty representation was present in the faculty instructors. In addition, questions concerning the type of tests performed, the number considered necessary for competency, the role of BU in clinical decision making, and the type of quality assurance program were included in the survey.


A total of 96 out of 122 surveys were completed (response rate of 79%). Ninety-one EM programs (95% of respondents) reported they teach BU, either clinically and/or didactically, as part of their formal residency curriculum. Eighty-one (89%) respondents reported their residency program or primary hospital emergency department (ED) had a dedicated ultrasound machine. BU was performed most commonly for the following: the FAST scan (focused abdominal sonography for trauma, 79/87%); cardiac examination (for tamponade, pulseless electrical activity, etc., 65/71%); transabdominal (for intrauterine pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy, etc., 58/64%); and transvaginal (for intrauterine pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy, etc., 45/49%). One to ten hours of lecture on BU was provided in 43%, and one to ten hours of hands-on clinical instruction was provided in 48% of the EM programs. Emergency physicians were identified as the faculty most commonly involved in teaching BU to EM residents (86/95%). Sixty-one (69%) programs reported that EM faculty and/or residents made clinical decisions and patient dispositions based on the ED BU interpretation alone. Fourteen (19%) programs reported that no formal quality assurance program was in place.


The majority of ACGME-accredited EM residency programs currently incorporate BU training as part of their curriculum. The majority of BU instruction is done by EM faculty. The most commonly performed BU study is the FAST scan. The didactic component and clinical time devoted to BU instruction are variable between programs. Further standardization of training requirements between programs may promote increasing standardization of BU in future EM practice.

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