The estimation of extra-vascular lung water (EVLW) is an essential component in the assessment of critically ill patients. EVLW is independently associated with mortality and its manipulation has been shown to improve outcome. Accurate assessment of lung water is possible with CT and MR imaging but these are impractical for real-time measurement in sick patients and have been superseded by single thermal dilution techniques. While useful, single thermo-dilution requires repeated calibration and is prone to error, suggesting a need for other monitoring methods. Traditionally the lung was not thought amenable to ultrasound examination owing to the high acoustic impedance of air; however, the identification of artefacts in diseased lung has led to increased use of ultrasound as a point of care investigation for both diagnosis and to monitor response to interventions. Following the initial description of B-lines in association with increased lung water, accumulating evidence has shown that they are a useful and responsive measure of the presence and dynamic changes in EVLW. Animal models have confirmed a correlation with lung gravimetry and the utility of B-lines has been demonstrated in many clinical situations and correlated against other established measures of EVLW. With increasing availability and expertise the role of ultrasound in estimating EVLW should be embedded in clinical practice and incorporated into clinical algorithms to aid decision making. This review looks at the evidence for ultrasound as a valid, easy to use, non-invasive point of care investigation to assess EVLW.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine