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POCUS for Pus

November 18, 2016

Short Attention Span Summary

Pus Hocus POCUS
This was a systematic review of 6 observational studies, 4 pediatric and 2 adult, that found the combined diagnostic accuracy of point of care ultrasound (POCUS) to be quite good for determining which skin infections were abscesses vs cellulitis: “sensitivity of 97% (95%CI 94-98%), specificity of 83% (95%CI 75-88%), LR+ of 5.5 (95%CI 3.7-8.2), and LR- of 0.04 (95%CI 0.02-0.08%).”

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POCUS is accurate in helping decide which skin infections need incision and drainage vs treatment for cellulitis only.


Acad Emerg Med. 2016 Oct 21. doi: 10.1111/acem.13049. [Epub ahead of print]

Point-of-Care Ultrasound for Diagnosis of Abscess in Skin and Soft Tissue Infections.

Subramaniam S1, Bober J2, Chao J2, Zehtabchi S2.

Author information:

1Department of Emergency Medicine, State University of new York, Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY. Subramaniam.sathyaseelan@gmail.com.

2Department of Emergency Medicine, State University of new York, Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY.



Traditionally, emergency department (ED) physicians rely on their clinical examination to differentiate between cellulitis and abscess when evaluating skin and soft tissue infections (SSTI). Management of an abscess requires incision and drainage, whereas cellulitis generally requires a course of antibiotics. Misdiagnosis often results in unnecessary invasive procedures, sedations (for incision and drainage in pediatric patients), or a return ED visit for failed antibiotic therapy.


To describe the operating characteristics of point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) compared to clinical examination in identifying abscesses in ED patients with SSTI.


We systematically searched Medline, Web of Science, EMBASE, CINAHL, and Cochrane Library databases from inception until May 2015. Trials comparing POCUS with clinical examination to identify abscesses when evaluating SSTI in the ED were included. Trials that included intraoral abscesses or abscess drainage in the operating room were excluded. Presence of an abscess was defined by drainage of pus. Absence of an abscess was defined as no pus drainage upon incision and drainage, or resolution of SSTI without pus drainage at follow up. Quality of trials was assessed using the QUADAS- 2 tool. Operating characteristics were reported as sensitivity, specificity, positive likelihood, and negative likelihood ratios, with their respective 95% confidence intervals (CI). Summary measures were calculated by generating a hierarchical summary receiver operating characteristic (HSROC) model.


Of 3203 references identified, 6 observational studies (4 pediatric trials and 2 adult trials) with a total of 800 patients were included. Two trials compared clinical examination with clinical examination plus POCUS. The other 4 trials directly compared clinical examination to POCUS. The POCUS HSROC revealed a sensitivity of 97% (95%CI 94-98%), specificity of 83% (95%CI 75-88%), LR+ of 5.5 (95%CI 3.7-8.2), and LR- of 0.04 (95%CI 0.02-0.08%)


Existing evidence indicates that POCUS is useful in identifying abscess in ED patients with SSTI. In cases where physical examination is equivocal, POCUS can assist physicians to distinguish abscess from cellulitis. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

PMID: 27770490 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

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