Ultrasound imaging is utilized in Swiss primary care; however, little is known regarding the extent to which it is performed. With this study, we aim to (1) provide an overview of ultrasound use by general practitioners (GPs), and (2) determine the clinical indications of ultrasound in Swiss general practice.
This is a quantitative study, analyzing 15 years of billing data from 213 GPs in Central Switzerland, and cross-sectional survey data completed by 61 GPs attending 26 certification and refresher courses offered by the Swiss Society of Ultrasound in Medicine (SGUM).
According to billing data, 49% of the GPs used ultrasound and provided 130,245 exams to 67,180 patients between 2004 and 2018. Over the years, ultrasound use became more frequent among GPs. Male GPs provide more ultrasound exams than female GPs. Patients that are female, ≥65 years, and multi-morbid had more ultrasound exams compared to males, patients < 65 years, and those with only one morbidity, respectively. GPs provided a mean of 129 ultrasound exams per physician-year. Abdominal ultrasound comprised almost 69% of all exams. According to survey data, indications covered many organ systems and clinical conditions, with abdominal indications being most frequent among them.
The use of ultrasound is high among general practitioners and it covers a wide range of clinical indications. Ultrasound is utilized primarily in the diagnosis of clinical indications of the abdomen, and more often for female than male patients.