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Monday, January 30, 2017

Prehospital Ultrasounds May Help Diagnose Respiratory Distress

About 90% of breathing treatments ordered in the emergency room are for patients ultimately diagnosed with heart failure. This is according to a non-scientific poll of respiratory therapists

This certainly bodes well for job security, but such injudicious use of Ventolin has also been implicated in respiratory therapy apathy syndrome. It also results in a needless hospital expense, as bronchodilators do not suck fluid out of lungs and do not benefit patients with pulmonary edema and heart failure.

I always thought it would be nice if there was a test to determine who was actually experiencing bronchospasm and who was not. Apparently, researchers have been experimenting with using ultrasounds to find the true cause of respiratory distress, or to differentiate between COPD and cardiogenic pulmonary edema.

Rather than just using a stethoscope, which has its limits as a diagnostic tool, researchers developed a ultrasound protocol that takes less than three minutes to perform. In fact, it can be performed by paramedics in the prehospital setting so that an appropriate diagnosis can be made and appropriate treatment started. 

Researchers say that paramedics, using traditional methods, were accurate in their initial diagnosis only 23% of the time. However, once the ultrasound protocol was adapted, they were accurate 90% of the time. If this is true, then it's something that should be adapted sooner rather than later. 

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