Tag Archives: BEAM

Echo for cardiac arrest outcome prediction

A meta-analysis of studies evaluation transthoracic echo as a means of predicting return of spontaneous circulation in cardiac arrest (ROSC) provides some likelihood ratios to what we already know: absence of sonographic cardiac activity means a very low chance of ROSC.

The authors report a pooled negative LR of 0.18 (95% CI = 0.10 to 0.31), and a positive likelihood ratio of 4.26 (95% CI = 2.63 to 6.92).

They conclude that focused transthoracic echo is a fairly effective (although not definitive) test for predicting death if no cardiac activity is noted during resuscitation, and recommend interpreting the echo in the light of the test characteristics and the clinical pre-test probability, as one should do for all imaging investigations:

“An elderly patient with an unwitnessed cardiac arrest already has very poor odds for survival. Confirmation of asystole on echo lowers those pretest odds by a factor of 5.6 and therefore might lead to termination of resuscitation. However, in the case of a 50-year-old rescued from drowning, detection of cardiac contractility on echo would increase his already fair odds of survival by a factor of 4.3, prompting continued aggressive resuscitation.”

Only five relatively small studies contributed to the findings. A more definitive answer to this question should be provided in the future by the multi-centre REASON 1 trial.

Objectives:  The objective was to determine if focused transthoracic echocardiography (echo) can be used during resuscitation to predict the outcome of cardiac arrest.

Methods:  A literature search of diagnostic accuracy studies was conducted using MEDLINE via PubMed, EMBASE, CINAHL, and Cochrane Library databases. A hand search of references was performed and experts in the field were contacted. Studies were included for further appraisal and analysis only if the selection criteria and reference standards were met. The eligible studies were appraised and scored by two independent reviewers using a modified quality assessment tool for diagnostic accuracy studies (QUADAS) to select the papers included in the meta-analysis.

Results:  The initial search returned 2,538 unique papers, 11 of which were determined to be relevant after screening criteria were applied by two independent researchers. One additional study was identified after the initial search, totaling 12 studies to be included in our final analysis. The total number of patients in these studies was 568, all of whom had echo during resuscitation efforts to determine the presence or absence of kinetic cardiac activity and were followed up to determine return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC). Meta-analysis of the data showed that as a predictor of ROSC during cardiac arrest, echo had a pooled sensitivity of 91.6% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 84.6% to 96.1%), and specificity was 80.0% (95% CI = 76.1% to 83.6%). The positive likelihood ratio for ROSC was 4.26 (95% CI = 2.63 to 6.92), and negative likelihood ratio was 0.18 (95% CI = 0.10 to 0.31). Heterogeneity of the results (sensitivity) was nonsignificant (Cochran’s Q: χ(2) = 10.63, p = 0.16, and I(2) = 34.1%).

Conclusions:  Echocardiography performed during cardiac arrest that demonstrates an absence of cardiac activity harbors a significantly lower (but not zero) likelihood that a patient will experience ROSC. In selected patients with a higher likelihood of survival from cardiac arrest at presentation, based on established predictors of survival, echo should not be the sole basis for the decision to cease resuscitative efforts. Echo should continue to be used only as an adjunct to clinical assessment in predicting the outcome of resuscitation for cardiac arrest.

Bedside Focused Echocardiography as Predictor of Survival in Cardiac Arrest Patients: A Systematic Review
Acad Emerg Med. 2012 Oct;19(10):1119-1126

Prehospital echo predicts arrest outcome

In hospital, the detection of cardiac standstill with ultrasound predicts a fatal outcome from cardiac arrest with a high degree of accuracy. A similar finding has been made in the prehospital setting. Interestingly, it was a better predictor than other commonly recognised factors associated with outcome: the presence of asystole, down time, bystander CPR, or end-tidal CO2 levels.

Introduction. The prognostic value of emergency echocardiography (EE) in the management of cardiac arrest patients has previously been studied in an in-hospital setting. These studies mainly included patients who underwent cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) by emergency medicine technicians at the scene and who arrived at the emergency department (ED) still in a state of cardiac arrest. In most European countries, cardiac arrest patients are normally treated by physician-staffed emergency medical services (EMS) teams on scene. Transportation to the ED while undergoing CPR is uncommon. Objective. To evaluate the ability of EE to predict outcome in cardiac arrest patients when it is performed by ultrasound-inexperienced emergency physicians on scene.

Methods. We performed a prospective, observational study of nonconsecutive, nontrauma, adult cardiac arrest patients who were treated by physician-staffed urban EMS teams on scene. Participating emergency physicians (EPs) received a two-hour course in EE during CPR. After initial procedures were accomplished, EE was performed during a rhythm and pulse check. A single subxiphoid, four-chamber view was required for study enrollment. We defined sonographic evidence of cardiac kinetic activity as any detected motion of the myocardium, ranging from visible ventricular fibrillation to coordinated ventricular contractions. The CPR had to be continued for at least 15 minutes after the initial echocardiography. No clinical decisions were made based on the results of EE.

Results. Forty-two patients were enrolled in the study. The heart could be visualized successfully in all patients. Five (11.9%) patients survived to hospital admission. Of the 32 patients who had cardiac standstill on initial EE, only one (3.1%) survived to hospital admission, whereas four out of 10 (40%) patients with cardiac movement on initial EE survived to hospital admission (p = 0.008). Neither asystole on initial electrocardiogram nor peak capnography value, age, bystander CPR, or downtime was a significant predictor of survival. Only cardiac movement was associated with survival, and cardiac standstill at any time during CPR resulted in a positive predictive value of 97.1% for death at the scene.

Conclusion. Our results support the idea of focused echocardiography as an additional criterion in the evaluation of outcome in CPR patients and demonstrate its feasibility in the prehospital setting.

Cardiac Movement Identified on Prehospital Echocardiography Predicts Outcome
Prehosp Emerg Care. 2012 Jan 11. [Epub ahead of print]

An easily missed cause of shock

A potentially reversible cause of haemodynamic shock in critically ill patients is left ventricular outflow tract obstruction (LVOTO). We are familiar with this phenomenon in conditions such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), but LVOTO can occur in the absence of HCM and result in hypotension that may be refractory to catecholamines. In fact, vasoactive drugs are often the precipitant.

A case is reported of an intubated elderly man with pneumonia and COPD who upon starting dopamine and furosemide for hypotension and anuria developed severe haemodynamic deterioration1. Echo revealed a hyperkinetic left ventricle with mild concentric hypertrophy, septal wall thickness of 12 mm (normal range up to 10mm), and a reduced end-diastolic diameter. Systolic anterior motion (SAM) of the anterior mitral leaflet causing a significant left ventricular outflow tract obstruction (LVOTO), with a peak gradient of 100 mmHg, was detected. The patient improved with discontinuation of vasoactive drugs and fluid loading. A follow up cardiac MR showed a structurally normal LV.

The authors describe the factors that combine to produce this syndrome:

  • Anatomical substrate – Left ventricular hypertrophy due to hypertension, mitral valve repair, previous aortic valve replacement, abnormalities of the mitral subvalvular apparatus, sigmoid septum and a steep aortic root angle.
  • Precipitating factors – Drug therapies such as catecholamine infusion or diuretics, which respectively enhance the contractility of the basal segments and reduce the left ventricular cavity, emotional stress (like described in the apical ballooning syndrome), hypovolaemia, dehydration, sepsis, and myocardial infarction; hypovolaemia and mechanical ventilation further exacerbate underfilling of the LV and dynamic LVOTO.

In a review article on the topic, Dr Chockalingam and colleagues describe structural and functional factors in this finely crafted explanation2:

The asymmetrically hypertrophied septum, progressive narrowing of the LVOT during systole, and direction of the bloodstream cause drag forces and a Venturi effect on the anterior mitral leaflet, which results in SAM of the anterior mitral leaflet. This movement results in the anterior mitral leaflet contacting the septum for a period of systole, effectively obstructing the path of ventricular outflow. Failure of the anterior mitral leaflet to coapt with the posterior leaflet in systole results in MR. The degree and duration of mitral SAM determine the severity of the dynamic LVOTO gradients and MR.

Although classically described with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, SAM and LVOTO can independently result from various clinical settings such as LV hypertrophy (hypertension or sigmoid septum), reduced LV chamber size (dehydration, bleeding, or diuresis), mitral valve abnormalities (redundant, long anterior leaflet), and hypercontractility (stress, anxiety, or inotropic agents). Dynamic LVOTO may occur with acute coronary syndrome and often presents with shock and a new systolic murmur3. The presence of a new murmur in a shocked ACS patient should therefore prompt consideration of the following diagnoses:

  • Acute mitral valve dysfunction
  • Ventricular septal defect
  • Free wall rupture
  • Dynamic LVOTO

Treatment is aimed at alleviating the causes and should be individualised. Options include coronary revascularisation, volume therapy, beta blockade, removing afterload reduction (vasodilators and balloon pumps can exacerbate LVOTO), and alpha agonists such as phenylephrine.


In summary, dynamic LVOTO:
  • is a potentially reversible cause of haemodynamic shock in critically ill patients
  • should be considered in critically ill patients whose shock fails to improve or worsen with inotropic medication
  • should be considered in patients with ACS, shock, and a new systolic murmur
  • can result from combinations of LV hypertrophy, reduced LV chamber size (dehydration, bleeding, or diuresis), mitral valve abnormalities, and hypercontractility (stress, anxiety, or inotropic agents)
  • is yet another reason why the haemodynamic monitor of choice in shocked patients should be echocardiography!

Echo showing systolic anterior motion of the mitral valve

1. Pathophysiology of Dynamic Left Ventricular Outflow Tract Obstruction in a Critically Ill Patient Echocardiography. 2010 Nov;27(10):E122-4

2. Dynamic Left Ventricular Outflow Tract Obstruction in Acute Myocardial Infarction With Shock Circulation. 2007 Jul 31;116(5):e110-3 Free Full Text 3. Dynamic left ventricular outflow tract obstruction in acute coronary syndromes: an important cause of new systolic murmur and cardiogenic shock Mayo Clin Proc. 1999 Sep;74(9):901-6

Pre-hospital Echo

Pre-hospital physicians in Germany performed basic echo on patients with symptoms either of profound hypotension and/or severe dyspnoea/tachypnoea where judged by the physician to be in a ‘peri-resuscitation’ state, and on patients undergoing CPR. Features noted were; cardiac motion (present or absent), ventricular function (normal, moderately impaired, severely impaired, absent), right ventricular dilatation or pericardial collection.

A few interesting findings to note:

  • In almost all patients an interpretable view was achieved; in the CPR patients, the subcostal view was best
  • In PEA patients, there was a difference in survival to admission (to discharge isn’t documented) between those with and without sonographically evident cardiac wall motion (21/38 = 55% vs 1/13 = 8%)
  • In ‘suspected asystole’, some patients had sonographically evident cardiac wall motion, and 9/37 (24%) of these survived to hospital admission vs 4/37 (11%) with no wall motion. On this point, the authors note: ‘The ECG performance and interpretation were by experienced practitioners, and this therefore raises questions regarding the accuracy of an ECG diagnosis of asystole in the pre-hospital setting‘.

Purpose of the study: Focused ultrasound is increasingly used in the emergency setting, with an ALS- compliant focused echocardiography algorithm proposed as an adjunct in peri-resuscitation care (FEEL). The purpose of this study was to evaluate the feasibility of FEEL in pre-hospital resuscitation, the incidence of potentially treatable conditions detected, and the influence on patient management.

Patients, materials and methods: A prospective observational study in a pre-hospital emergency setting in patients actively undergoing cardio-pulmonary resuscitation or in a shock state. The FEEL protocol was applied by trained emergency doctors, following which a standardised report sheet was completed, including echo findings and any echo-directed change in management. These reports were then analysed independently.

Results: A total of 230 patients were included, with 204 undergoing a FEEL examination during ongoing cardiac arrest (100) and in a shock state (104). Images of diagnostic quality were obtained in 96%. In 35% of those with an ECG diagnosis of asystole, and 58% of those with PEA, coordinated cardiac motion was detected, and associated with increased survival. Echocardiographic findings altered management in 78% of cases.

Conclusions: Application of ALS-compliant echocardiography in pre-hospital care is feasible, and alters diagnosis and management in a significant number of patients. Further research into its effect on patient outcomes is warranted.

Focused echocardiographic evaluation in life support and peri-resuscitation of
emergency patients: A prospective trial

Resuscitation. 2010 Nov;81(11):1527-33