"We found that the use of ultrasound to diagnose patients greatly reduced radiation exposure for patients without negatively affecting their health," said Margarita Oks, from Long Island Jewish Hospital, North Shore-LIJ Health System.
"It was also cost-effective," Oks said.
Ultrasound, also called sonography, is an imaging method that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images that lead to diagnosis and treatment of many diseases and medical conditions. Radiation is not used in ultrasound testing, but is used in X-rays and CT scans, researchers said.
Oks and her colleagues studied medical charts covering 3 months of data comparing chest X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasound between two independent but similar medical intensive care units staffed by the same medical house staff in one health-care system.
One unit used bedside ultrasound as the standard of care for diagnosis; the second used conventional imaging, such as X-rays and CT scans, as its standard of care in diagnosis.
Researchers found that there were 5.21 X-rays done per patient stay in the ICU using X-rays and CT scans, while there were 1.10 X-rays per patient stay in the unit using ultrasound as the standard of care.
Total CT scans were 0.91 in the non-ultrasound ICU versus 0.26 per patient stay in the ultrasound unit. There were 0.27 cardiac echocardiograms in the non-ultrasound ICU versus 0.11 in the ultrasound ICU per patient stay.
Mortality rates did not differ greatly, with 0.27 in the non-ultrasound ICU versus 0.20 in the ultrasound ICU.     

The study was presented at CHEST 2013, the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), in Chicago.


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