Prehospital ultrasound by paramedics: Results of field trial

William Heegaard, David Hildebrandt, David Spear, Kevin Chason, Bret Nelson, Jeffrey Ho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Objectives: The objective was to determine if 9-1-1 paramedics trained in ultrasound (US) could adequately perform and interpret the Focused Assessment Sonography in Trauma (FAST) and the abdominal aortic (AA) exams in the prehospital care environment. Methods: Paramedics at two emergency medical services (EMS) agencies received a 6-hour training program in US with ongoing refresher education. Paramedics collected US in the field using a prospective convenience methodology. All US were performed in the ambulance without scene delay. US exams were reviewed in a blinded fashion by an emergency sonographer physician overreader (PO). Results: A total of 104 patients had an US performed between January 1, 2008, and January 1, 2009. Twenty AA exams were performed and all were interpreted as negative by the paramedics and the PO. Paramedics were unable to obtain adequate images in 7.7% (8/104) of the patients. Eighty-four patients had the FAST exam performed. Six exams (6/84, 7.1%) were read as positive for free intraperitoneal/pericardial fluid by both the paramedics and the PO. FAST and AA US exam interpretation by the paramedics had a 100% proportion of agreement with the PO. Conclusions: This pilot study shows that with close supervision, paramedics can adequately obtain and interpret prehospital FAST and AA US images under protocol. These results support a growing body of literature that indicates US may be feasible and useful in the prehospital setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)624-630
Number of pages7
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2010


  • Paramedic ultrasound
  • Prehospital ultrasound
  • Trauma care
  • Ultrasound


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