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Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) in a remote area of Sierra Leone: impact on patient management and training program for community health officers

Abstract

Purpose

Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) has been shown to have unique potential in low-income countries. Physicians and other healthcare providers can perform effective scans after a short period of training. This study aimed to evaluate indications and utility of ultrasonography as the main imaging service in a poor rural sub-Saharan region of Africa. Second, it evaluated the effect of a short training on POCUS for non-physician health providers and their agreement with a group of Italian physicians.

Methods

This study was undertaken in Lokomasama—a chiefdom of Sierra Leone—between January and February 2019. Based on clinical indications, ultrasound findings were evaluated with respect to the initial diagnostic hypothesis. Volunteer doctors conducted a theoretical–practical training of two community health officers (CHO) on chest and abdominal POCUS and E-FAST protocol. The evaluation of the achieved technical skills was obtained with a numeric score. Inter-observer agreement concerning ultrasound diagnosis based on clinical indications was assessed.

Results

A total of 196 consecutive patients underwent ultrasound examination. POCUS findings were in keeping with the clinical diagnosis in the 49.5%. POCUS changed the initial diagnosis in 17% of cases. After training, E-FAST and POCUS knowledge score was 90% and 83%, respectively. An excellent inter-observer agreement (0.88) was found between CHOs and physicians.

Conclusion

POCUS represents a powerful diagnostic tool in a low-income country that may improve the patient management. Training of non-physician health providers is doable and may improve healthcare management in resource-limited settings.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to acknowledge all the local staff (CHW, nurses, and CHO) of “Love Bridges Health Center” in Lokomasama and of “Bureh Town Community Health Center.” We would like to thank Surf4Children Onlus, which supported this no-profit project. We also are thankful with Dr. Shane O’Connor for English revision.

Author information

Correspondence to Danilo Buonsenso.

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Conflict of interest

All the authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical statement

The study involves human participants, but no invasive procedures have been performed.

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Written informed consent has been obtained from all participants or caregivers.

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Sabatino, V., Caramia, M.R., Curatola, A. et al. Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) in a remote area of Sierra Leone: impact on patient management and training program for community health officers. J Ultrasound (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40477-019-00426-w

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Keywords

  • POCUS
  • Training
  • Ultrasound
  • Sub-Saharan Africa