Objective: To assess the potential value and cost-effectiveness of a hand-carried ultrasound (HCU) device in an outpatient cardiology clinic.
Methods: 222 consecutive patients were prospectively enrolled in the study. When standard echocardiography (SE) was specifically indicated on the basis of clinical history, electrocardiogram and physical examination, the same cardiologist (level-2 or level-3 trained) immediately performed an HCU examination. The cardiologist then reassessed the clinical situation to confirm or cancel the SE request according to the information provided by HCU. The SE examination was performed by a sonographer and examined in a blinded fashion by a cardiologist expert in echocardiography. Findings from the two examinations were compared.
Results: HCU was performed in 108/222 patients, and a definite diagnosis was established in 34 of them (31%), making SE examination potentially avoidable. In the 74 patients with inconclusive HCU results and for whom SE was still indicated, the decision was mainly dictated by the lack of spectral Doppler modality in the HCU system. The overall agreement between HCU and SE for diagnosis of normal/abnormal echocardiograms was 73% (κ = 0.4). On the basis of the potentially avoided SE examinations and the obviated need for a second cardiac consultation, a total cost saving of €2142 per 100 patients referred for echocardiography was estimated.
Conclusions: The use of a simple HCU device in the outpatient cardiology clinic allowed reliable diagnosis in one third of the patients referred for echocardiography, which translates into cost and time saving benefits.
- HCU, hand-carried ultrasound
- LV, left ventricular
- SE, standard echocardiography
- hand-carried ultrasound device
- outpatient clinic
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Published Online First 29 August 2006
Competing interests: None.