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Echocardiography in cardiac arrest

Price, Susannaa; Uddin, Shahanab; Quinn, Tomc

Current Opinion in Critical Care: June 2010 - Volume 16 - Issue 3 - p 211–215
doi: 10.1097/MCC.0b013e3283399d4c
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation: Edited by Gavin D. Perkins

Purpose of review Successful resuscitation requires potentially reversible causes to be diagnosed and reversed, and many of these can readily be diagnosed using echocardiography. Although members of the resuscitation team routinely use adjuncts to their clinical examination in order to differentiate these causes, the use of echocardiography is not yet considered standard. The purpose of this review is to discuss the potential for echocardiography to aid diagnosis and treatment during resuscitation, together with some of the perceived challenges that currently limit its widespread use.

Recent findings Many studies have demonstrated the value of echocardiography in the assessment of critically ill patients in the intensive care unit and emergency room settings, including more recently the use of focused echocardiography. This can be performed within the time frame allowed during the pulse check of the advanced life support (ALS) algorithm. ALS-compliant focused echocardiography can be taught to nonexpert practitioners such that high-quality cardiopulmonary resuscitation is not compromised while diagnosing/excluding some of the potential causes of cardiac arrest.

Summary Persistent and worsening haemodynamic instability are regarded as clear indications for echocardiography. The focused application of this well established technique within the ALS algorithm provides the resuscitation team with a potentially powerful diagnostic tool that can be used to diagnose/exclude some of the potentially treatable causes of cardiac arrest as well as to guide therapeutic interventions. The impact of routine periresuscitation echocardiography on patient outcomes both for in-hospital and prehospital care remains an exciting avenue for future research.

aRoyal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, UK

bBarts & the London NHS Trust, London, UK

cUniversity of Surrey, Guilford, Surrey, UK

Correspondence to Dr Susanna Price, Adult Intensive Care Unit, Royal Brompton Hospital, Sydney Street, London SW3 6NP, UK Tel: +44 2073528121; fax: +44 2073518524; e-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.