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Anesthesiology:
doi: 10.1097/01.anes.0000287347.49179.ee
Correspondence

Prevention of Vascular Air Embolism

Meyer, Philippe G. M.D.*; Orliaguet, Gilles A. M.D.; Blanot, Stéphane M.D.; Baugnon, Thomas M.D.; Rose, Christian Sainte M.D.; Carli, Pierre M.D.

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To the Editor:—

We were interested in the recent review from Minski et al. on diagnosis and treatment of vascular air embolism.1 These authors should be commended for a nice review of the existing literature on this specific problem. However, we would like to suggest some minor corrections.
First, regarding the incidence of venous air embolism (VAE) during craniosynostosis repair reported by Faberowski et al.2 and Tobias et al.3 in this journal, the two citations have been reversed. Faberowski using precordial Doppler detection found a high (82.6%) incidence of VAE, contrasting with an incidence of only 8% for Tobias et al. This difference has been, in part, explained by the fact that a less invasive surgical method was used in the report of Tobias et al., but the sensitivity of the detection method used in the former study could also be questioned.
Second, and more concerning for us, our method for preventing VAE in sitting neurosurgical children seems to be incompletely reported in the review by Minski et al. In our original article published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia some years ago, we described the combined use of Military Anti-Shock Trousers (MAST) suit and positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) with a 0% incidence of VAE compared with a 30% incidence in the control group.4 We found that this method could be reliable and effective to prevent clinically significant VAE without deleterious side effects. Since that time, we have routinely used this method of prevention in 30–40 procedures performed in sitting children each year.
In our experience, MAST suit inflation and PEEP induce a reliable and sustained increase in right atrial pressure, sufficient to increase jugular bulb venous pressure above atmospheric level in children, and to prevent clinically significant VAE. We do agree with Minski et al. that PEEP alone cannot be recommended as a routine prevention method, because hemodynamic disturbances related to its use balance negatively its potentially beneficial effect on intrathoracic and right atrial pressures, especially in seated anesthetized patients. Preventive low levels of PEEP are so only used to amplify the increase in right atrial pressure, and to restore adequate ventilation in lower lung compartments that could be compressed with MAST suit inflation.
Considering the potential hazards of this method, with “venous” pressure inflation, namely 40 mmHg in the abdominal compartment and 30 mmHg in the lower limbs compartment, we never observed the described potential risks of hypoperfusion to intraabdominal organs, and compartment syndromes. In our experience, urine output, which could be very sensitive to hypoperfusion of the kidneys during abdominal compression, never decrease under 1 ml · kg−1 · h−1. Moreover, we demonstrated that plasma creatine phosphate kinase level, which could reliably reflect muscular hypoperfusion and ischemia during MAST inflation, was not significantly increased in children with prolonged MAST inflation.
When comparing the incidence of VAE occurrence during procedures performed in the prone or sitting position with PEEP and MAST suit inflation in children, we did not find a significant difference, with only one episode of VAE related to a major surgical vascular effraction during dural closure occurring in a sitting patient.5 This could be an additional argument to maintain the use of the sitting position in selected patients, provided that detection and prevention of VAE could be as efficiently secured in both situations. We therefore recommend consideration of the use of a MAST suit and moderate PEEP levels in children when surgical conditions require positioning of the patient in the sitting position.
Philippe G. Meyer, M.D.,*
Gilles A. Orliaguet, M.D.
Stéphane Blanot, M.D.
Thomas Baugnon, M.D.
Christian Sainte Rose, M.D.
Pierre Carli, M.D.
*Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Necker Enfants Malades, Faculté de Médecine René Descartes Paris 5, Paris, France. philippe.meyer@nck.aphp.fr
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References

1. Minski MA, Lele AV, Fitzsimmons L, Toung TJK: Diagnosis and treatment of vascular embolism. Anesthesiology 2007; 106:164–77

2. Faberowski LW, Black S, Mickle JP: Incidence of venous air embolism during craniectomy for craniosynostosis repair. Anesthesiology 2000; 92:20–3

3. Tobias JD, Johnson JO, Jimenez DF, Barone CM, Mc Bride DS Jr: Venous air embolism during endoscopic strip craniectomy for repair of craniosynostosis in infants. Anesthesiology 2001; 95:340–2

4. Meyer PG, Cuttaree H, Charron B, Jarreau MM, Perie AC, Sainte Rose C: Prevention of venous air embolism in paediatric neurosurgical procedures performed in the sitting position by combined use of MAST suit and PEEP. Br J Anaesth 1994; 73:795–800

5. Orliaguet GA, Hanafi M, Meyer PG, Blanot S, Jarreau MM, Bresson D, Zerah M, Carli P: Is the sitting or the prone position best for surgery for posterior fossa tumours in children? Paediatr Anaesth 2001; 11:541–7

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