A systematic review of the cost-effectiveness of ultrasound in emergency care settings

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Background: The use of ultrasound (US) in emergency departments (ED) has become widespread. This includes both traditional US scans performed by radiology departments as well as point-of-care US (POCUS) performed by bedside clinicians. There has been significant interest in better understanding the appropriate use of imaging and where opportunities to enhance cost-effectiveness may exist. The purpose of this systematic review is to identify published evidence surrounding the cost-effectiveness of US in the ED and to grade the quality of that evidence. Methods: We performed a systematic review of the literature following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. Studies were considered for inclusion if they were: (1) economic evaluations, (2) studied the clinical use of ultrasound, and (3) took place in an emergency care setting. Included studies were critically appraised using the Consolidated Health Economic Evaluation Reporting Standards checklist. Results: We identified 631 potentially relevant articles. Of these, 35 studies met all inclusion criteria and were eligible for data abstraction. In general, studies were supportive of the use of US. In particular, 11 studies formed a strong consensus that US enhanced cost-effectiveness in the investigation of pediatric appendicitis and 6 studies supported enhancements in the evaluation of abdominal trauma. Across the studies, weaknesses in methodology and reporting were common, such as lack of sensitivity analyses and inconsistent reporting of incremental cost-effectiveness ratios. Conclusions: The body of existing evidence, though limited, generally demonstrates that the inclusion of US in emergency care settings allows for more cost-effective care. The most definitive evidence for improvements in cost-effectiveness surround the evaluation of pediatric appendicitis, followed by the evaluation of abdominal trauma. POCUS outside of trauma has had mixed results.




Lentz, B., Fong, T., Rhyne, R., & Risko, N. (2021, December 1). A systematic review of the cost-effectiveness of ultrasound in emergency care settings. Ultrasound Journal. Springer-Verlag Italia s.r.l. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13089-021-00216-8

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