Using POCUS to guide diuretic therapy in HF
To date, there have been multiple small studies published on the utility of daily POCUS in hospitalized patients with ADHF to help assess response to treatment and guide diuresis by looking for reduction in B lines on LUS or a change in IVC size or collapsibility. Volpicelli and colleagues showed that daily LUS was at least as good as daily CXR in monitoring response to therapy.6 Similarly, Mozzini and colleagues performed a randomized controlled trial of 120 patients admitted for ADHF who were randomized to a CXR group (who had a CXR performed on admission and discharge) and a LUS group (which was performed at admission, 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, and discharge).7 This study found that the LUS group underwent a significantly higher number of diuretic dose adjustments as compared with the CXR group (P < .001) and had a modest improvement in LOS, compared with the CXR group. Specifically, median LOS was 8 days in CXR group (range, 4-17 days) and 7 days in the LUS group (range, 3-10 days; P < .001).
The impact of POCUS on length of stay (LOS) and readmissions
There is increasing data that POCUS can have meaningful impacts on patient-centered outcomes (morbidity, mortality, and readmission) while exposing patients to minimal discomfort, no venipuncture, and no radiation exposure. First, multiple studies looked at whether performing focused cardiac US of the IVC as a marker of volume status could predict readmission in patients hospitalized for ADHF.8,9 Both of these trials showed that plethoric, noncollapsible IVC at discharge were statistically significant predictors of readmission. In fact, Goonewardena and colleagues demonstrated that patients who required readmission had an enlarged IVC at discharge nearly 3 times more frequently (21% vs. 61%, P < .001) and abnormal IVC collapsibility 1.5 times more frequently (41% vs. 71%, P = .01) as compared with patients who remained out of the hospital.9
Similarly, a subsequent trial looked at whether IVC size on admission was of prognostic importance in patients hospitalized for ADHF and showed that admission IVC diameter was an independent predictor of both 90-day mortality (hazard ratio, 5.88; 95% confidence interval, 1.21-28.10; P = .025) and 90-day readmission (HR, 3.20; 95% CI, 1.24-8.21; P = .016).10 Additionally, LUS heart failure assessment for pulmonary congestion by counting B lines also showed that having more than 15 B lines prior to discharge was an independent predictor of readmission for ADHF at 6 months (HR, 11.74; 95% CI, 1.30-106.16).11
A challenge of POCUS: Obtaining competency
As previously noted, there are not yet any established standards for training and assessing hospitalists in POCUS. The SHM Position Statement on POCUS recommends the following criteria for training5: the training environment should be similar to the location in which the trainee will practice, training and feedback should occur in real time, the trainee should be taught specific applications of POCUS (such as cardiac US, LUS, and IVC US) as each application comes with unique skills and knowledge, clinical competence must be achieved and demonstrated, and continued education and feedback are necessary once competence is obtained.12 SHM recommends residency-based training pathways, training through a local or national program such as the SHM POCUS certificate program, or training through other medical societies for hospitalists already in practice.