Sunnybrook Magazine Sunnybrook Magazine - Spring 2020

Point-of-care ultrasound is transforming how emergency rooms assess kidney stone patients

Examining patient with POCUS ultrasound

Dr. Jordan Chenkin (left) examines a patient using point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS). (Photography by Kevin Van Paassen)


Researchers at Sunnybrook have implemented a new way to assess patients with kidney stones that is changing practice in emergency rooms across Toronto.

Point-of-care ultrasound, often abbreviated as POCUS, relies on bedside imaging instead of a conventional CT scan. The portable ultrasound device can be used by doctors and does not require a radiologist.

At Sunnybrook, POCUS is now the main diagnostic test used to assess low-risk patients with symptoms that suggest a kidney stone.

Part of an ongoing study, it is making a big difference for patients who frequently visit the Emergency Department (ED) with symptoms related to kidney stones, says Dr. Jordan Chenkin, lead researcher and director of the Emergency Department ultrasound program at Sunnybrook.

“Ultrasound is radiation-free. It also helps reduce the need for repeat CT scans in these patients and shortens their stay in the ED,” Dr. Chenkin says.

In fact, this innovation has cut the amount of CT scans in half for patients with recurrent kidney stones and shortened their average stay by 94 minutes. The initiative’s success has prompted other emergency departments across Toronto to adopt the technique for patients with suspected kidney stones.

An internationally recognized leader in ultrasound education and research, Sunnybrook’s POCUS group is also gaining global attention for another study involving urgent cardiac care. The team is using a faster and potentially more reliable way to check a patient’s pulse, a key piece of information when assessing a potential cardiac arrest.

Dr. Chenkin says this technique utilizing POCUS has already resulted in major changes to improve patient care.

“We often see patients who are critically ill, but no obvious cause can be found. Using POCUS has revolutionized care by allowing emergency physicians to quickly look inside the body and identify potentially life-threatening conditions at the bedside.”

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Laura Bristow

Laura is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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