Helicopter emergency medical services use of thoracic point of care ultrasound for pneumothorax

In helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) settings, auscultating for breath sounds to check for pneumothorax can be extremely difficult. A visual (rather than audible) alternative to thoracic point of care ultrasonography (POCUS) appears to be more useful. The use of thoracic POCUS for pneumothorax in the HEMS scenario is critically and quantitatively evaluated in this review.

POCUS and HEMS organizations

When conducted in a HEMS situation, thoracic POCUS is highly specific but has significantly variable sensitivity for pneumothorax. This is solely from a diagnostic (rather than a clinical) standpoint. When only clinically relevant pneumothoraces are examined, sensitivity rises. Thoracic POCUS can appropriately alter therapy and triage decisions, according to case studies, but only for a small number of patients. It appears to be most beneficial in preventing needless interventions. There is a need for more research that focuses on patient outcomes. In the interim, when testing for pneumothorax in the HEMS scenario, thoracic POCUS appears to be a more appropriate visual alternative to auscultation for breath sounds.

helicopter emergency medical ultrasound