Pediatrics entices practitioners with its focus on treating illness in the youngest patients, for long-term outcomes of future growth and development. When I reflect on my own journey through Pediatrics and Pediatric Emergency Medicine, helping patients in real-time through providing the best quality care given limited information, drew me to Pediatric Emergency Medicine.
Pediatric Emergency Medicine (PEM) focuses on providing acute care to patients from the newest newborns to teenagers. With this breadth of ages comes differing pathology, physiology, and of course differences in relative and absolute size. Integration of point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) into PEM practice offers the clinician an added tool to provide the best possible care. Children are ideal patients for POCUS scanning as they often have slimmer body habitus, fewer comorbidities, and there is increasing interest in limiting ionizing radiation amongst all patients, especially the very young.
POCUS offers direct visualization for procedures such as endotracheal tube airway confirmation, central-line insertion, and intravenous and intraosseous access. Utilizing this clinical adjunct allows for accuracy in nerve block administration, reducing the volume used of local anesthetic and decreasing the need for systemic sedation. Visualizing fractures following reduction and assessing joints and soft tissue infections prior to decision of incision and drainage or aspiration can all be achieved using POCUS.
Because our patients vary in size, optimizing planning prior to starting procedures can help to maximize success. Risk in pediatric procedures is heightened due to variable sizing, risking too-deep insertion of needles and endotracheal tubes. Direct visualization helps to support the provider in making safe choices.
Beyond procedures, POCUS allows PEM providers to optimize resuscitation, through real-time monitoring of volume status, cardiac function, and pulmonary edema. Reassessment throughout resuscitation adds additional information to vital signs and end-organ markers as patients are treated.
As machines become increasingly accurate at more portable sizes, and as cloud storage is increasingly popular among organizations, the future of POCUS offers providers along the care-continuum the opportunity to share information and images. My hope for the future of acute POCUS would be to have pre-hospital POCUS, emergency POCUS, consultative radiology imaging, and follow-up POCUS imaging in community clinics on an integrated system allowing for shared images and progressive monitoring for long-standing conditions.
The future of POCUS is bright as innovation and technology disruption move ultrasound outside of the walls of the hospital, placing transducers in the hands of those at the bedside from the helicopter to the remote health clinic. For countries such as Canada, increased portability means increasing access for those populations most at risk of health inequity, those living in the far North and remote regions of my country, who have limited access to urban care. POCUS with added portability and technological integration can help improve access, and shared decision making between urban centers and remote regions with patient safety and privacy as a priority.
I’m excited to see where POCUS integration moves in the course of the rest of my medical career, as I look forward to being an advocate for access and clinical education in addition to being an expert that maintains clinical accountability, safety, and privacy. The promotion of these critical pillars will help determine the success of the POCUS-empowered clinical experience.
Do you use point-of-care ultrasound in pediatric practice? If so, how has it helped you? Is there another medical field you think should use ultrasound more? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.
Lianne McLean, MB BCh, BAO, FRCPC, is Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto; and Staff Physician and Chair of the Council of Informatics & Technology in the Division of Emergency Medicine at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada.