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Lung Ultrasound Can Assess Pregnant Women

April 4, 2014
Written by: , Filed in: Chest Radiology, Diagnostic Imaging
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A lung ultrasound scan could quickly determine whether a pregnant woman with preeclampsia is at risk for respiratory failure, a small study suggests.

The authors of the study, which was published in the April issue of Anesthesiologydo caution, “These preliminary results are associations from a single sample. They need to be replicated in a larger, definitive study.”

The study took place at Hôpital Nord in Marseille, France. Researchers performed both lung and cardiac ultrasound, both before and after delivery, on 20 pregnant women with severe preeclampsia. As a control, a healthy patient was paired with each subject and given a lung ultrasound before delivery. Lung ultrasound detected pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) in five of the preeclampsia patients, and did a better job at finding pulmonary edema than cardiac ultrasound.

Marc Leone, MD, PhD, lead author of the study, was encouraged by the results:

Lung ultrasound is fast, safe, noninvasive, and easy to use. We found it allowed us to quickly assess whether a woman with preeclampsia had pulmonary edema and confirm the severity of the condition.

Dr. Leone is vice chair of the department of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at Hôpital Nord. He was quoted in a news release from the American Society of Anesthesiologists, publisher of Anesthesiology.

Doctors often measure the urine output of pregnant women to determine whether they need fluids. But that test is reliable only about half the time. Giving fluids to someone with pulmonary edema worsens the condition and can lead to respiratory failure.

“Lung ultrasound enables the medical team to identify which women really need the fluid treatment,” said Laurent Zieleskiewicz, MD, the study’s first author, also of Hôpital Nord.

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