Background: To evaluate the common sources of diagnostic errors in emergency ultrasonography. Methods: The authors performed a Medline search using PubMed (National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland) for original research and review publications examining the common sources of errors in diagnosis with specific reference to emergency ultrasonography. The search design utilized different association of the following terms : (1) emergency ultrasonography, (2) error, (3) malpractice and (4) medical negligence. This review was restricted to human studies and to English-language literature. Four authors reviewed all the titles and subsequent the abstract of 171 articles that appeared appropriate. Other articles were recognized by reviewing the reference lists of significant papers. Finally, the full text of 48 selected articles was reviewed. Results: Several studies indicate that the etiology of error in emergency ultrasonography is multi-factorial. Common sources of error in emergency ultrasonography are: lack of attention to the clinical history and examination, lack of communication with the patient, lack of knowledge of the technical equipment, use of inappropriate probes, inadequate optimization of the images, failure of perception, lack of knowledge of the possible differential diagnoses, over-estimation of one’s own skill, failure to suggest further ultrasound examinations or other imaging techniques. Conclusions: To reduce errors in interpretation of ultrasonographic findings, the sonographer needs to be aware of the limitations of ultrasonography in the emergency setting, and the similarities in the appearances of various physiological and pathological processes. Adequate clinical informations are essential. Diagnostic errors should be considered not as signs of failure, but as learning opportunities.
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