Ultrasound estimation of volume of postoperative pleural effusion in cardiac surgery patients

Engin Usta, Migdat Mustafi, Gerhard Ziemer
Interactive Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery 2010, 10 (2): 204-7
The aim of this study was to establish a practical simplified formula to facilitate the management of a frequently occurring postoperative complication, pleural effusion. Chest ultrasonography with better sensitivity and reliability in the diagnosis of pleural effusions than chest X-ray can be repeated serially at the bedside without any radiation risk. One hundred and fifty patients after cardiac surgery with basal pleural opacity on chest X-ray have been included in our prospective observational study during a two-year period. Effusion was confirmed on postoperative day (POD) 5.9+/-3.2 per chest ultrasound sonography. Inclusion criteria for subsequent thoracentesis based on clinical grounds alone and were not protocol-driven. Major inclusion criteria were: dyspnea and peripheral oxygen saturation (SpO(2)) levels < or = 92% and the maximal distance between mid-height of the diaphragm and visceral pleura (D > or = 30 mm). One hundred and thirty-five patients (90%) were drained with a 14-G needle if according to the simplified formula: V (ml)=[16 x D (mm)] the volume of the pleural effusion was around 500 ml. The success rate of obtaining fluid was 100% without any complications. There is a high accuracy between the estimated and drained pleural effusion. Simple quantification of pleural effusion enables time and cost-effective decision-making for thoracentesis in postoperative patients.


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