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Transcranial Doppler ultrasonography as a screening technique for detection of a patent foramen ovale before surgery in the sitting position.

Anesthesiology 2000 October
BACKGROUND: Venous air embolism has been reported to occur in 23-45% of patients undergoing neurosurgical procedures in the sitting position. If venous air embolism occurs, a patent foramen ovale (PFO) is a risk factor for paradoxical air embolism and its sequelae. Preoperative screening for a PFO is therefore recommended by some investigators. The reference standard for identifying a PFO is contrast-enhanced transesophageal echocardiography (c-TEE). Contrast-enhanced transcranial Doppler ultrasonography (c-TCD) and contrast-enhanced transthoracic echocardiography (c-TTE) are noninvasive alternative methods, but so far there are no studies as to their diagnostic validity in neurosurgical patients.

METHODS: The sensitivity and specificity of c-TCD and c-TTE in detecting a PFO were determined in a prospective study using c-TEE as the reference standard. Preoperative c-TCD, c-TTE, and c-TEE studies were performed during the Valsalva maneuver after intravenous echo-contrast medium (D-Galactose, Echovist-300, Schering AG, Berlin, Germany) was administered in 92 consecutive candidates (47 men and 45 women; mean age, 51 yr; range, 25-72 yr) before neurosurgical procedures in the sitting position.

RESULTS: A PFO was detected in 24 of the 92 patients (26.0%) using c-TEE. c-TCD correctly identified 22 patients, whereas c-TTE only correctly identified 10. This corresponds to a sensitivity of 0.92 for c-TCD and 0.42 for c-TTE. The negative predictive value was 0.97 for c-TCD compared with 0.83 for c-TTE. The prevalence of a PFO in patients with a posterior fossa lesion was 27%, and in the group with cervical disc herniation was 24% as detected by c-TEE. The incidence of intraoperative venous air embolism was 35% in cases of cervical foraminotomy and 75% in posterior fossa surgery as detected by c-TEE.

CONCLUSIONS: c-TCD is a highly sensitive and highly specific method for detecting a PFO. Because c-TCD is noninvasive, it may be more suitable than c-TEE for routine preoperative screening for a PFO. C-TTE is not reliable in detecting a PFO.

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