Point-of-Care Ultrasound Used to Distinguish Between Superficial Skin Abscess and Deep Mediastinal Abscess: A Case Report
BACKGROUND:Skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs) are an increasingly common complaint in the emergency department (ED), but physical examination does not reliably identify abscesses or accurately determine which skin lesions require incision and drainage. Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) improves management of soft tissue skin infections by detecting occult abscess, preventing unnecessary procedures, and identifying more complex disease requiring further imaging. CASE REPORT/METHODS:Here, we report a case in which POCUS drastically changed the management of what initially appeared to be an uncomplicated superficial skin abscess but was actually a much more serious mediastinal infection. WHY SHOULD AN EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN BE AWARE OF THIS?: This case underscores the importance and utility of POCUS to enhance the physical examination in suspected SSTIs. Because POCUS is easy, accurate, low risk, and can change management, we recommend its consideration as a standard component of the ED work up for SSTIs.