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Ultrasound by emergency physicians to detect abdominal aortic aneurysms: a UK case series


Early identification of abdominal aortic aneurysms in some patients can be difficult and the diagnosis is missed in up to 30% of patients. Ultrasound cannot be used to identify a leak, but the presence of an aneurysm in an unstable patient is conclusive. With minimal training emergency physicians can easily identify the aorta and thus in the early phase of resuscitation an aneurysm can be confidently excluded. The purpose of the examination is not to delineate the extent of the aneurysm, but to identify those patients that will need emergency surgery. A series of patients presented to the department in an unstable condition with equivocal abdominal signs. An ultrasound scan in the resuscitation room by members of the emergency department revealed an aneurysm, which was enough to convince the vascular surgeons to take the patient straight to theatre with good results. In patients who are stable, computed tomography will continue to be used to evaluate the extent of the aneurysm and identify a leak.

  • aneurysm
  • ultrasound
  • AAA, abdominal aortic aneurysms
  • FAST, focused assessment with sonography in trauma

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