SonoWorkshop: CastleFest2014 #CF2014 – happening now, watch LIVE.. or after it’s done #FOAMed

The incredible team of Castlefest, has its 2014 sessions underway. The gurus are out in full force – Mike Mallin, Matt Dawson (@ultrasoundpod), Mike Stone (@bedsidesono), Chris Fox (@jchristianfox), Vicki Noble (@nobleultrasound), Haney Mallemat,(@CriticalCareNow), Rob Rogers (@EM_Educator), and many more!

What is Castlefest? Watch here to find out!

Watch the broadcast LIVE!

You can also take a look at the previous days’ lectures too: go here!

Day 1 Session 1 and Session 2

To find out more about the virtual ultrasound fellowship – the Ultrasound Leadership Academy – go here

SonoStudy: Is Pelvic Ultrasound necessary after negative CT in non-pregnant women? #FOAMed

In the July 2013 issue of Clinical Radiology, the authors from Harvard Medical School review 126 patient charts of non-pregnant women who had a negative abdominal/pelvic CT from 2005- 2010 who then had a pelvic ultrasound for pelvic pain. Despite the obvious question, which is “why did they get a CT and not an ultrasound in the first place?” which will not be discussed, their findings were surprising. Im not sure why, but I guess it goes to show how good multi-detector CT imaging is for these patients now. This raises the question whether a pelvic ultrasound is needed in these patients given the low yield. It would be nice if this was a multi-site study with thousands of patients to increase the power, but the numbers here cannot be ignored. Below is the abstract:

AIM:

To determine the diagnostic value of pelvic ultrasound following negative abdominal/pelvic computed tomography (CT) in women presenting to the emergency room (ER) with abdominal/pelvic pain, and whether ultrasound altered clinical management in the acute-care setting.

MATERIALS AND METHODS:

Between January 2005 to October 2010, 126 consecutive, non-pregnant women with abdominal/pelvic pain underwent pelvic ultrasound within 24 h following negative abdominal/pelvic CT in the ER. Imaging findings/reports for the CT and ultrasound examinations, and clinical data/outcomes were recorded. The time interval between the CT and ultrasound examinations was calculated. Mean length of stay (LOS) was compared to that of age-matched controls who did not have subsequent ultrasound using the t-test.

RESULTS:

Only 3% (four of 126 cases) of the pelvic ultrasound examinations showed positive findings, all of which were endometrial abnormalities. One patient was diagnosed with an endometrial polyp, whereas the others were lost to follow-up. In none of the four cases was the pelvic ultrasound finding relevant to the acute presentation or altered acute care. The average time between CT to ultrasound was 3 h and 4 min. Mean LOS was 22 h and 13 min for the cohort, and 16 h and 8 min for the age-matched controls, although this was not statistically significant (p = 0.29).

CONCLUSION:

Immediate ultrasound re-imaging of the pelvis following negative CT in women with acute abdominal/pelvic pain yields no additional diagnostic information and does not alter acute care.

 

A similar study was done and published in 2011 out of NYU – abstract below:

Abstract

To determine the added value of reimaging the female pelvis with ultrasound (US) immediately following multidetector CT (MDCT) in the emergent setting. CT and US exams of 70 patients who underwent MDCT for evaluation of abdominal/pelvic pain followed by pelvic ultrasound within 48 h were retrospectively reviewed by three readers. Initially, only the CT images were reviewed followed by evaluation of CT images in conjunction with US images. Diagnostic confidence was recorded for each reading and an exact Wilcoxon signed rank test was performed to compare the two. Changes in diagnosis based on combined CT and US readings versus CT readings alone were identified. Confidence intervals (95%) were derived for the percentage of times US reimaging can be expected to lead to a change in diagnosis relative to the diagnosis based on CT interpretation alone. Ultrasound changed the diagnosis for the ovaries/adnexa 8.1% of the time (three reader average); the majority being cases of a suspected CT abnormality found to be normal on US. Ultrasound changed the diagnosis for the uterus 11.9% of the time (three reader average); the majority related to the endometrial canal. The 95% confidence intervals for the ovaries/adnexa and uterus were 5-12.5% and 8-17%, respectively. Ten cases of a normal CT were followed by a normal US with 100% agreement across all three readers. Experienced readers correctly diagnosed ruptured ovarian cysts and tubo-ovarian abscesses (TOA) based on CT alone with 100% agreement. US reimaging after MDCT of the abdomen and pelvis is not helpful: (1) following a normal CT of the pelvic organs or (2) when CT findings are diagnostic and/or characteristic of certain entities such as ruptured cysts and TOA. Reimaging with ultrasound is warranted for (1) less-experienced readers to improve diagnostic confidence or when CT findings are not definitive, (2) further evaluation of suspected endometrial abnormalities. A distinction should be made between the need for immediate vs. follow-up imaging with US after CT.
One reason for reviewing this is that women may feel uncomfortable with this procedure. Recently there was a lawsuit filed stating a transvaginal US felt like “rape” – take care in your technique. I dont know any specifics of the case, but saw the news report and hoping more info comes.

SonoTutorial: Appendicitis assessment by ultrasound #FOAMed #FOAMus

In a recent article in Insights into Imaging, there is a great pictorial and descriptive review of the how-to of appendicitis assessment by ultrasound. The authors are radiologists from the UK and they provide an excellent description of its assessment. As they state, if appendicitis is not evaluated in patients with right lower quadrant pain or any of the other signs of appendicitis (either by the Alvarado Score or other decision rule… or even just your clinical judgement) complications can occur: “Potential complications include perforation, peritonitis, abscess formation and death. Because of atypical presentations and the risk of potential complications, imaging is often requested. In children, this imaging technique is usually US.” For SonoSpot cases for appendix US, go here. For SonoSpot studies’ reviews in appendicits, go here. A great lecture through AEUS on appendicitis and ultrasound, go here.

Their specific teaching points:

• A step-wise technique improves the chances of visualisation of the appendix.
• There are often several causes for the non-visualisation of the appendix in children.
• A pathological appendix has characteristic US signs, with several secondary features also identified.
• There are multiple common differentials to consider in the paediatric patient.
Their technique as described in the free article published:
1. Ask where it hurts and start there
2. Graded compression
3. Find the appendix using specific landmarks (psoas muscle and iiacs vessels)
4. Look for signs of appendicitis (noncompressible, tubular, >6mm diameter, aperistaltic) – other signs described below

“Setting the scene: contact with the patient and parents

When meeting the paediatric patient for the first time, the patient should be asked where the point of maximum tenderness is located. The examination is explained to the patient. The patient is usually accompanied by a parent or guardian. In optimal conditions, the patient is fasted and has a full bladder to help in the exclusion of any ovarian or other pelvic pathology.

Graded compression US

The scan is continued with a planar higher frequency probe, which allows higher resolution of more superficial structures. The frequency used depends on the size and age of the child (between 5 and 12 MHz).

Step 1:

Displacing small bowel loops out of the way
Normal bowel loops are displaced by gentle compression of the anterior abdominal wall using the US probe. These loops should be easily compressed and displaced away. The displacement of the bowel structures should allow the visualisation of the iliac vessels in the right iliac fossa as well as the psoas muscle. Two-plane scanning is performed (longitudinal and transverse).
Step 2:

Visualisation of the ascending colon and caecum
The ascending colon is visualised as a non-peristalsing structure containing gas and fluid in the right side of the abdomen. The probe is then moved inferiorly toward the caecum, using repeated compression and release to express gas and fluid from the bowel (Fig. 1a, b). The right psoas muscle should also be visualised (Fig. 2). The adjacent terminal ileum should be identified as a compressible structure that is undergoing peristalsis.

/static-content/images/862/art%253A10.1007%252Fs13244-013-0275-3/MediaObjects/13244_2013_275_Fig1_HTML.gif
Fig. 1

Longitudinal (a) and transverse (b) views using high frequency linear-array probe showing the caecum (small white arrows in b) and ascending colon in a 15-year-old girl
/static-content/images/862/art%253A10.1007%252Fs13244-013-0275-3/MediaObjects/13244_2013_275_Fig2_HTML.gif
Fig. 2

Longitudinal image showing the caecum and ascending colon, as well as the adjacent psoas muscle posteriorly (small white arrows) in a 15-year-old girl
Step 3:

Identification of the appendix
Once the caecum has been seen, the appendix should be visualised arising from it, separate to the terminal ileum (Fig. 3). The appendix should be followed along its whole length. A normal appendix should measure 6 mm or less in diameter from outside wall to outside wall. It should have a thin wall (less than 3 mm), be empty or gas/faecal-filled and compressible, and there should be no evidence of hypervascularisation [2326].

/static-content/images/862/art%253A10.1007%252Fs13244-013-0275-3/MediaObjects/13244_2013_275_Fig3_HTML.gif
Fig. 3

A normal appendix is seen draped over the iliac vessels in a 10-year-old girl. This is thin-walled, measuring less than 6 mm in diameter (A width of 3 mm). The caecum can be seen in continuity with the appendix superior to it
Step 4:

Assessment for features of acute appendicitis
An abnormal appendix can have any of the following characteristics which should be actively considered:

  • Compressibility: in acute appendicitis, the appendix is non-compressible [24]. One caveat here is perforation when the appendix can become compressible.
  • Maximum diameter: a maximum diameter of greater than 6 mm is considered abnormal (Figs. 4 and 5) [52425].
  • Wall thickness: a single wall thickness of 3 mm or more is considered abnormal (Fig. 6) [2427].
  • Target sign appearance: this is caused by a fluid-filled centre (hypoechoic centre), surrounded by a hyperechoic ring (mucosa/submucosa) which is surrounded by a hypoechic muscularis layer giving a target sign on axial imaging (Fig. 7a, b) [1528].
  • The presence of an appendicolith (this will appear as an echogenic focus with posterior acoustic shadowing) (Fig. 8a, b) [1528].
  • Vascularity: peripheral appendiceal wall hyperaemia is seen in the early stages of acute appendicitis (Fig. 9a, b); this may not be seen with progression to necrosis [1529].
/static-content/images/862/art%253A10.1007%252Fs13244-013-0275-3/MediaObjects/13244_2013_275_Fig4_HTML.gif
Fig. 4

Longitudinal view of a thickened, oedematous appendix measuring 10 mm in diameter with surrounding increased echogenic omentum in an 8-year-old boy with confirmed appendicitis. Absent intraluminal gas is noted
/static-content/images/862/art%253A10.1007%252Fs13244-013-0275-3/MediaObjects/13244_2013_275_Fig5_HTML.gif
Fig. 5

Transverse view of a thickened, oedematous appendix measuring 10 mm in diameter in an 8-year-old boy with confirmed appendicitis. Again, surrounding omentum of increased echogenicity is noted
/static-content/images/862/art%253A10.1007%252Fs13244-013-0275-3/MediaObjects/13244_2013_275_Fig6_HTML.gif
Fig. 6

The wall of this oedematous appendix measures 4 mm in an 8-year-old boy with confirmed appendicitis. Increased echogenic omentum is seen adjacent to the appendix
/static-content/images/862/art%253A10.1007%252Fs13244-013-0275-3/MediaObjects/13244_2013_275_Fig7_HTML.gif
Fig. 7

a A transverse view of an inflamed appendix in a 15-year-girl, showing the target sign appearance. bSimilar appearances in an 11-year-old boy. This target sign comprises a hypoechoic fluid-filled centre (white arrow), inner hyperechoic mucosal/submucosal ring (white asterisk), and outer hypoechoic ring (dashed white arrow)
/static-content/images/862/art%253A10.1007%252Fs13244-013-0275-3/MediaObjects/13244_2013_275_Fig8_HTML.gif
Fig. 8

Appendicoliths (labelled) causing posterior acoustic shadowing in two patients, a 15-year-old girl (a) and a 10-year-old boy (b). The thickened, fluid-filled appendix is labelled in b (small white arrows)
/static-content/images/862/art%253A10.1007%252Fs13244-013-0275-3/MediaObjects/13244_2013_275_Fig9_HTML.gif
Fig. 9

a Increased Doppler signal in a thickened, oedematous appendix in an 8 year-old-boy. b Similar appearances noted in a 10-year-old girl. The increased Doppler signal indicates hyperaemia
Secondary features can be observed around the inflamed appendix; these should be actively sought:

  • Free fluid or abscess in the periappendiceal region (Fig. 10) [61528].
  • Increased echogenicity of the adjacent periappendiceal fat (Fig. 11) [61528].
  • Enlarged mesenteric lymph nodes (Fig. 12) [15].
  • Thickening and hyperechogenicity of the overlying peritoneum (Fig. 13).
  • Dilated hyperactive small bowel from secondary small bowel obstruction (Fig. 14).
  • Focal apical caecal pole thickening or thickening of the adjacent small bowel can be seen as a secondary response [630].
/static-content/images/862/art%253A10.1007%252Fs13244-013-0275-3/MediaObjects/13244_2013_275_Fig10_HTML.gif
Fig. 10

Small pocket of free fluid in the region of the appendix (white arrow) in a 10-year-old girl with confirmed appendicitis
/static-content/images/862/art%253A10.1007%252Fs13244-013-0275-3/MediaObjects/13244_2013_275_Fig11_HTML.gif
Fig. 11

Omental fat with increased echogenicity with a mass-like appearance (small white arrows) in a 12-year-old boy with confirmed appendicitis
/static-content/images/862/art%253A10.1007%252Fs13244-013-0275-3/MediaObjects/13244_2013_275_Fig12_HTML.gif
Fig. 12

Multiple lymph nodes (arrows) in the mesentery of the periappendiceal region in an 8-year-old girl with confirmed appendicitis
/static-content/images/862/art%253A10.1007%252Fs13244-013-0275-3/MediaObjects/13244_2013_275_Fig13_HTML.gif
Fig. 13

Increased echogenic free fluid in the right iliac fossa (indicating pus) with adjacent thickening of the peritoneum in a 2-year-old girl with confirmed appendicitis
/static-content/images/862/art%253A10.1007%252Fs13244-013-0275-3/MediaObjects/13244_2013_275_Fig14_HTML.gif
Fig. 14

Loops of dilated, fluid-filled small bowel in a 2-year-old girl with confirmed appendicitis. Echogenic free fluid is seen adjacent to the bowel indicating pus (white arrow)
It is not uncommon that the appendix cannot be identified. There are varying rates quoted in the literature for the appendix being seen, between 24.4 % and 69.3 % [61323]. In this situation, it is important to actively assess for the secondary features often seen which may help direct further management. Repeating the examination after a few hours has been shown to significantly increase the sensitivity of US [31].
Read on more to hear about the complications of appendicitis,  the causes of inadequate visualization, and other etiologies as seen on ultrasound for right lower quadrant pain. Trust me, its worth the viewing.

SonoStudy: Bedside ultrasound improves patient satisfaction! @nobleultrasound #FOAMed

In the era of patient satisfaction, report cards, and bonus structure changes all based on patient surveys, in the August 2013 issue of Journal of Emergency Medicine, Drs. Zoe Howard (prior Stanford ultrasound fellow – oh yeah!), Vicki Noble (a guru of bedside US and one of the most fantastic people I know), along with other superstars performed a study that actually tried to keep some variables that would otherwise sway the results, as standard as possible. These include length of stay and chief complaints.

The authors state it best :”Patient satisfaction is becoming increasingly important as a marker of health care quality. As many hospitals grade physician performance and base reimbursement on patient satisfaction scores, clinical interventions that improve these ratings have become increasingly important. In addition to it being a marker of ED service and performance, there is evidence that patient satisfaction is associated with greater medical compliance, willingness to return or recommend the ED to others, and decreased litigation 1234. That decreased length of stay (LOS) improves patient satisfaction is both intuitive and supported by the literature (5). Three previous studies have reported high patient satisfaction with bedside ultrasound. A Swedish study showed that on leaving the ED, patients with acute abdominal pain who underwent EUS had a small but significant increase in satisfaction compared with those who did not (6). Another study showed comparably high overall patient satisfaction for both EP-performed and radiologist-performed ultrasound compared to no EUS (7). Finally, a small study of patients who presented to the ED with threatened miscarriage also showed higher satisfaction when EUS was used in their evaluation. These women also had increased confidence in their physician’s diagnosis (8).”

So, what does this all mean? Do it, and do it more – they like it!

The authors study abstract below:

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Bedside ultrasound (US) is associated with improved patient satisfaction, perhaps as a consequence of improved time to diagnosis and decreased length of stay (LOS).

OBJECTIVES:

Our study aimed to quantify the association between beside US and patient satisfaction and to assess patient attitudes toward US and perception of their interaction with the clinician performing the examination.

METHODS:

We enrolled a convenience sample of adult patients who received a bedside US. The control group had similar LOS and presenting complaints but did not have a bedside US. Both groups answered survey questions during their emergency department (ED) visit and again by telephone 1 week later. The questionnaire assessed patient perceptions and satisfaction on a 5-point Likert scale.

RESULTS:

Seventy patients were enrolled over 10 months. The intervention group had significantly higher scores on overall ED satisfaction (4.69 vs. 4.23; mean difference 0.46; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.17-0.75), diagnostic testing (4.54 vs. 4.09; mean difference 0.46; 95% CI 0.16-0.76), and skills/abilities of the emergency physician (4.77 vs. 4.14; mean difference 0.63; 95% CI 0.29-0.96). A trend to higher scores for the intervention group persisted on follow-up survey.

CONCLUSIONS:

Patients who had a bedside US had statistically significant higher satisfaction scores with overall ED care, diagnostic testing, and with their perception of the emergency physician. Bedside US has the potential not only to expedite care and diagnosis, but also to maximize satisfaction scores and improve the patient-physician relationship, which has increasing relevance to health care organizations and hospitals that rely on satisfaction surveys.

SonoStudy: Right subcostal diaphragm view to confirm ETT placement #FOAMed

In the Apr 2013 issue of Int J Crit Illn Inj Science, the authors from Iran attempt to identify the sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value and accuracy of the right subcostal diaphragm view in the immediately paralyzed and intubated patient to confirm endotracheal intubation (versus esophageal intubation). This study comes from prior studies done suggesting that by visualizing diaphragm movement with ventilation or BVM, you can ascertain that the ET tube was placed in the trachea and not the esophagus. This adds to the growing number of studies that also discusses visualization of the lung sliding sign after intubation to confirm endotracheal intubation, and the ease at which you can identify the tube in the trachea and the esophagus upon trans-jugular notch view and identification of the ring down artifact through the trachea or a tube shadow beyond the esophagus, respectively.

To view a prior post on airway US and ETT placement confirmation, go here. For a fun airway guided talk by Ultrasound Podcast on it all, go here, and here.

So, after you intubate – look over the jugular notch for the ring down artifact through the trachea with the absence of esophageal shadow, then look for lung sliding on both sides of the chest with BVM or ventilation (this can also assess for pneumothorax prior to intubation), then look at the diaphragm for movement with ventilation post intubation. None will show you exactly where the end of the ET tube is, but you’ll know that youre not in the esophagus with good confidence – especially if your capnography isnt accurate due to post- cardiac arrest and your Xray machine/tech is busy or in the bathroom.

The abstract is below:

Aims:

To assess the sensitivity and specificity of right subcostal ultrasound view to confirm correct endotracheal tube intubation (ETT).

Materials and Methods:

In this prospective study, apneic or paralyzed patients who had an indication of intubation were selected. Intubation and ventilation with bag were performed by the skilled third-year emergency medicine residents. The residents, following a brief training course of ultrasonography, interpreted the diaphragm motion, and identified either esophageal or tracheal intubation. The confirmation of ETT placement was done by the sonographer. Sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, negative predictive value, and accuracy were calculated for tracheal versus esophageal intubation.

Results:

A total of 57 patients aged 59 ± 5 who underwent ETT insertion were studied. Thirty-four of them were male (60%). Ultrasound correctly identified 11 out of 12 esophageal intubations for a sensitivity of 92% (95% CI = 62-100), but misidentified one esophageal intubation as tracheal. Sonographers correctly identified 43 out of 45 (96%) tracheal intubations for a specificity of 96% (95% CI = 85-99), but misdiagnosed two tracheal intubations as esophageal.

Conclusions:

This study suggests that diaphragm motion in right subcostal ultrasound view is an effective adjunct to diagnose ETT place in patients undergoing intubation in emergency department.

Likely the best description from the article is below:”…Studies have shown that ultrasound can diagnose paralyzed diaphragm.[16,17] Therefore, it seems practical to detect diaphragm motion during the positive-pressure ventilation by using ultrasound imaging of it. Hsieh, et al. studied the use of diaphragm motion for confirmation of ETT correct placement on 59 children in prenatal intensive care unit (PICU) setting. They diagnosed all intubations correctly with ultrasound imaging with sensitivity and specificity of 100%; however, they had only two esophageal intubations.[25] Kerrey, et al.[26] used diaphragm motion view of ultrasound in confirmation of correct ETT placement in 66 children in PICU. They evaluated the diagnosis of right main bronchus intubation. In their study, the sensitivity and specificity were 88% and 64%, respectively. Although sensitivity and specificity of the ultrasound in our study were high, we cannot strongly state that the ultrasound is a sensitive and specific method, because the confidence interval for sensitivity and specificity were rather wide. Studies have identified the intubation of the right main bronchus using diaphragm motion or observation of the lung sliding sign by placing the probe in the left side of the chest; however, left side of the chest is not as good as the right side for seeing the diaphragm motion.[22,26] If the patient is paralyzed or apneic, it would be suitable to evaluate the diaphragm motion in the right side of the chest to diagnose the esophageal intubation.”

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 10.15.58 AM

SonoStudy: Ultrasound of heart and lungs identify preeclamptic pregnant patients at risk

In anesthesiology literature (not yet on pubmed), heart and lung ultrasound has entered the mix to identify pregnant patients at risk for respiratory failure – looking for hypocontractile heart and B lines! Oh yeah! It has received a lot of press, see here, here and here :

“Chicago — (March 18, 2014)

An ultrasound of the lungs could help doctors quickly determine if a pregnant woman with preeclampsia is at risk for respiratory failure, suggests preliminary research published in the April issue of Anesthesiology.

About 60,000 women worldwide die as a result of preeclampsia, which causes severely high blood pressure. Potential complications include stroke, bleeding and excess fluid in the lungs – called pulmonary edema – which can lead to respiratory failure.  The study suggests a lung ultrasound can help doctors easily learn whether a woman with preeclampsia is suffering from pulmonary edema and ensure she receives the correct treatment.

“Lung Ultrasound is fast, safe, noninvasive and easy to use,” said Marc Leone, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study and vice chair of the department of anesthesiology and critical care medicine, Hopital Nord, Marseille, France. “We found it allowed us to quickly assess whether a woman with preeclampsia had pulmonary edema and confirm the severity of the condition.”

Doctors often measure urine output to determine if a woman needs fluid administration, but the results are wrong about half of the time. “Lung ultrasound enables the medical team to identify which women really need the fluid treatment,” noted Dr. Zieleskiewicz, the study’s  first author.

Pulmonary edema is typically caused by heart failure, but also can be caused by lung inflammation. Researchers analyzed the use of lung ultrasounds, which can assess lung  edema, are easier to use than cardiac ultrasound and can be performed with devices commonly found in maternity wards. Lung ultrasound highlights white lines mimicking comet tails, irradiating from the border of the lungs. These lines are the reflection of water in the lungs.  The detection of three or more lines strongly suggests the diagnosis of pulmonary edema.

Researchers performed both cardiac and lung ultrasounds before and after delivery in 20 women with severe preeclampsia.  Five of the 20 women (25 percent) had pulmonary edema prior to delivery according to lung ultrasound, while four (20 percent) had the condition according to the cardiac ultrasound. The lung ultrasound identified a patient with non-cardiac pulmonary edema, which the cardiac ultrasound did not detect.

The test results could help ensure that pregnant women with pulmonary edema not be given intravenous or excess fluids, which worsens the condition and can lead to respiratory failure.  Typically, women with pulmonary edema are treated with oxygen and medication to lower the blood pressure or rid the body of excess fluid.  In real time, lung ultrasound also serves to observe improvement or worsening of pulmonary edema.”

SonoCase: Thoracic aortic aneurysms – and a review of the literature #FOAMed

Thoracic aortic aneurysms are much less common than abdominal aortic aneurysms. And, to top it off, the measurements of the thoracic aorta are different than the abdominal aorta, especially in the ascending thoracic aorta. It’s good to know how to look at the thoracic aorta when you need to, and what the normal measurements are so that you can make that immediate decision when a thoracic aneurysm (or dissection) is detected.

Drs. Daignault, Saul, and Lewiss published 2 great case reports in the Journal of EM Aug 2013 issue (subscription needed) on thoracic aortic aneurysms. One patient was a 60 year old male who had blunt trauma to his back by a heavy piece of plaster while at work. He had a BP of 140/80 mm Hg and HR of 90 beats/min. The FAST was negative for free fluid but the aortic root was found to be 5.49cm. This caused them to order a CT angio confirming their findings.  Another patient was an 82 year old male with 1 month of chest pain radiating to his back with history of aortic valve repair and HTN on coumadin. BP was 210/90 mm Hg. A bedside echo was performed and showed descending thoracic aorta aneurysm measuring 4.82cm.  This had a CT Angio done confirming descending thoracic aneurysm.  The abstract is found here, and a prior post on these case reports can be found here.

These cases bring up an excellent reason to review the thoracic aorta. The best cardiac echo view to see visualize the thoracic aorta, if you could only pick one, would be the parasternal long view.

According to a german study where they looked at the thoracic aorta throughout life from 17 to 89 yrs of age  via helical CT with the following methods and results: “Methods: Seventy adults, 17 to 89 years old, without any signs of cardiovascular disease were investigated with helical computed tomography. Aortic diameters were measured at seven predefined thoracic levels. Results: Aortic diameters (mean ± SD) were 2.98 ± 0.46 cm at the aortic valve sinus, 3.09 ± 0.41 cm at the ascending aorta, 2.94 ± 0.42 cm proximal to the innominate artery, 2.77 ± 0.37 cm at the proximal transverse arch, 2.61 ± 0.41 cm at the distal transverse arch, 2.47 ± 0.40 cm at the isthmus, and 2.43 ± 0.35 cm at the diaphragm. Men had slightly longer diameters than did women. All diameters increased with age. There was no influence of weight, height, or body surface area.”

More recently, Medscape authors state that the thoracic aorta dimensions are larger than the abdominal aorta dimensions and that aneursymal definition occurs when it is greater than 50% of the normal size.

Another study in the radiology literature with many more subjects more recently, had the following methods and results: “Methods: 1442 consecutive subjects who were referred for evaluation of possible coronary artery disease underwent coronary CT angiography (CTA) and coronary artery calcium scanning (CACS) (55+11 years, 65% male) without known coronary heart disease, hypertension, chronic pulmonary and renal disease, diabetes and severe aortic calcification. The ascending aortic diameter, descending aortic diameter (DAOD), pulmonary artery (PAD) and chest anterioposterior diameter (CAPD), posterior border of sternal bone to anterior border of spine, were measured at the slice level of mid right pulmonary artery by using end systolic trigger image. The volume of four chambers, ejection fraction of left ventricle, and cardiac output were measured in 56% of the patients. Patients demographic information, age, gender, weight, height and body surface area (BSA), were recorded. The mean value and age specific and gender adjusted upper normal limits (mean + 2 standard deviations) were calculated. The linear correlation analysis was done between AAOD and all parameters. The reproducibility, wall thickness and difference between end systole and diastole were calculated. Result: AAOD has significant linear association with age, gender, descending aortic diameter and pulmonary artery diameter (P<0.05). There is no significant correlation between AAOD and body surface area, four chamber volume, LVEF, CO and CAPD. The mean Intra-luminal AAOD was 31.1 ± 3.9mm and 33.6 ± 4.1 mm in females and males respectively. The upper normal limits (mean + 2 standard deviations) of Intra-luminal AAOD, mean+ standard deviation, was 35.6, 38.3 and 40 mm for females and 37.8, 40.5 and 42.6 mm for males in age group 20 to 40, 41 to 60, above 60 year respectively. Intra-luminal should parallel echocardiography and invasive angiography. Traditional cross sectional imaging (with computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging) includes the vessel wall. The mean total AAOD was 33.5mm and 36.0 mm in females and males respectively. The upper normal limits (mean + 2 standard deviations) of Intra-luminal AAOD, mean+ standard deviation, was 38.0, 40.7 and 42.4 mm for females and 40.2, 42.9 and 45.0 mm for males in age group 20 to 40, 41 to 60, above 60 year respectively. The inter and intra observer, scanner and repeated measurement variability was low (R value >0.91, P<0.001, coefficient variation <3.2%). AAOD was 1.7 mm less in end-diastole than end systole(P<0.001).” Below is their table illustrating the various measurements by others:

Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 10.59.27 AM

As Dr Lewiss and colleagues state in their case reports, “The most recent consensus statement by the American Society of Echocardiography (ASE) and the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) recognized that the thoracic aortic pathology can be identified on EP-performed focused cardiac ultrasound (3). Transthoracic echocardiography was shown to be consistent with TEE for measurement of the ascending aorta (21). Taylor et al. demonstrated that EP-performed focused cardiac ultrasound was consistent with CTA measurements for maximal thoracic aortic diameter (2). In these cases, an EP with considerable experience in ultrasound performed these studies, but many EP are trained in the use of focused ultrasound for evaluation of the abdominal aorta. Principals used in this application, such as avoiding measurements in oblique planes, measuring from outer wall to outer wall (for the descending thoracic aorta), and the use of Doppler also may be utilized in the evaluation of the thoracic portion of the aorta.”