Use of point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) for heart failure


Application of the data to our original case

Dr. Poonam Sharma of Duke University Health System, Durham, N.C.

Dr. Poonam Sharma

Targeted POCUS using the LuCUS protocol is performed and reveals three B lines in two lung zones bilaterally, moderate bilateral pleural effusions, EF 20%, and a noncollapsible IVC leading to a diagnosis of ADHF. Her ADHF is treated with intravenous diuresis. She is continued on her chronic maintenance chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder regimen but does not receive steroids, avoiding hyperglycemia that has complicated prior admissions. Over the next few days her respiratory and cardiac status is monitored using POCUS to assess her response to therapy and titrate her diuretics to her true dry weight, which was several pounds lower than her previously assumed dry weight. At discharge she is instructed to use the new dry weight which may avoid readmissions for HF.

Bottom line

POCUS improves diagnostic accuracy and facilitates volume assessment and management in acute decompensated heart failure.

Dr. Farber is a medical instructor at Duke University and hospitalist at Duke Regional Hospital, both in Durham, N.C. Dr. Marcantonio is a medical instructor in the department of internal medicine and department of pediatrics at Duke University and hospitalist at Duke University Hospital and Duke Regional Hospital. Dr. Stafford and Dr. Brooks are assistant professors of medicine and hospitalists at Duke Regional Hospital. Dr. Wachter is associate medical director at Duke Regional Hospital and assistant professor at Duke University. Dr. Menon is a hospitalist at Duke University. Dr. Sharma is associate medical director for clinical education at Duke Regional Hospital and associate professor of medicine at Duke University.


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3. Anderson KL et al. Diagnosing heart failure among acutely dyspneic patients with cardiac, inferior vena cava, and lung ultrasonography. Am J Emerg Med. 2013;31:1208-14. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2013.05.007.

4. Russell FM et al. Diagnosing acute heart failure in patients with undifferentiated dyspnea: A lung and cardiac ultrasound (LuCUS) protocol. Acad Emerg Med. 2015;22(2):182-91. doi:10.1111/acem.12570.

5. Maw AM et al. Diagnostic accuracy of point-of-care lung ultrasonography and chest radiography in adults with symptoms suggestive of acute decompensated heart failure: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Netw Open. 2019 Mar 1;2(3):e190703. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.0703.

6. Volpicelli G et al. Bedside ultrasound of the lung for the monitoring of acute decompensated heart failure. Am J Emerg Med. 2008 Jun;26(5):585-91. doi:10.1016/j.ajem.2007.09.014.

7. Mozzini C et al. Lung ultrasound in internal medicine efficiently drives the management of patients with heart failure and speeds up the discharge time. Intern Emerg Med. 2018 Jan;13(1):27-33. doi: 10.1007/s11739-017-1738-1.

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Key points

  • Studies have found POCUS improves the diagnosis of acute decompensated heart failure in patients presenting with dyspnea.
  • Daily evaluation with POCUS has decreased length of stay in acute decompensated heart failure.
  • Credentialing requirements for hospitalists to use POCUS for clinical care vary by hospital.

Additional reading

Maw AM and Soni NJ. Annals for hospitalists inpatient notes – why should hospitalists use point-of-care ultrasound? Ann Intern Med. 2018 Apr 17;168(8):HO2-HO3. doi: 10.7326/M18-0367.

Lewiss RE. “The ultrasound looked fine”: Point of care ultrasound and patient safety. AHRQ’s Patient Safety Network. WebM&M: Case Studies. 2018 Jul 1.

Quiz: Testing your POCUS knowledge

POCUS is increasingly prevalent in hospital medicine, but use varies among different disease processes. Which organ system ultrasound or lab test would be most helpful in the following scenario?

An acutely dyspneic patient with no past medical history presents to the ED. Chest x-ray is equivocal. Of the following, which study best confirms a diagnosis of acute decompensated heart failure?

A. Brain natriuretic peptide

B. Point-of-care cardiac ultrasound

C. Point-of-care lung ultrasound

D. Point-of-care inferior vena cava ultrasound


C. Point-of-care lung ultrasound

Multiple studies, including three systematic reviews, have shown that point-of-care lung ultrasound has high sensitivity and specificity to evaluate for B lines as a marker for cardiogenic pulmonary edema. Point-of-care ultrasound of ejection fraction and inferior vena cava have not been evaluated by systematic review although one randomized, controlled trial showed that an EF less than 45% had 74% specificity and 77% sensitivity and IVC collapsibility index less than 20% had an 86% specificity and 52% sensitivity for detection of acute decompensated heart failure. This same study showed that the combination of cardiac, lung, and IVC point-of-care ultrasound had 100% specificity for diagnosing acute decompensated heart failure. In the future, health care providers could rely on this multiorgan evaluation with point-of-care ultrasound to confirm a diagnosis of acute decompensated heart failure in a dyspneic patient.


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