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Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2004 Aug;22(3):683-96.

Gynecologic ultrasound in emergency medicine.

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The true value of ultrasound in acute abdominal pain lies in its ability to detect gynecologic disorders and effectively rule out other causes of acute abdominal pain that require surgical repair. Although the emergent gynecologic indications discussed in this article are few in number, this does not suggest that the nonpregnant patient presenting to the ED with abdominal pain should not receive an ultrasound examination. On the contrary, the author believes that in a "perfect world," ultrasound should be the initial imaging study in most of these patients. The reality is that it is difficult to convince radiology colleagues to call in a sonologist in the middle of the night for any indication other than ovarian torsion when CT scans can diagnose ovarian cysts and tubo-ovarian abscess. As was pointed out in the section on ovarian torsion, even adequate ovarian blood flow does not rule out this diagnosis.Ideally, an ultrasound of the pelvis could be undertaken at the time of the pelvic examination, adding as little as 5 to 10 minutes. If a gynecologic disorder could be confirmed, other imaging studies might be unnecessary,thereby reducing cost (potential savings on laboratory tests, cervical cultures, or CT scans), length of stay, and adverse complications of CT(contrast material reactions, and radiation exposure).Emergency medicine ultrasound continues to grow at a rapid pace. We are working toward a time when most EPs will be competent and comfortable performing bedside ultrasound examinations in a limited number of applications. The gynecologic application of ultrasound,however, requires skill beyond the level of the primary applications of emergency medicine ultrasound-specifically, mastering Doppler ultra-sound. Although ultrasound has proved to be a valuable imaging modality in the nonpregnant patient with acute abdominal pain when performed by a seasoned sonographer, the role of ED ultrasound has been limited to those EPs with significantly more training. The author believes that even limited expertise in gynecologic ultrasound is valuable in helping direct the management of these patients. Further research by skilled EP sonographers eventually will help define the role of EPs in this particular application of ultrasound. EPs should not be discouraged from developing expertise in this examination when a confirmatory study in radiology will be performed. Miles on the "ultrasound odometer" will not only sharpen sonographic skills but also will help the EP to better communicate with nonpregnant patients presenting with abdominal pain. There is a fairly specific barometer already in place to gauge one's gynecologic ultrasound skills: a seasoned EP sonographer never skips over the chart of a young woman with right lower quadrant pain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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