Echocardiography in cardiac arrest: An emergency medicine review

Brit Long, Stephen Alerhand, Kurian Maliel, Alex Koyfman
American Journal of Emergency Medicine 2018, 36 (3): 488-493

INTRODUCTION: Cardiac arrest management primarily focuses on optimal chest compressions and early defibrillation for shockable cardiac rhythms. Non-shockable rhythms such as pulseless electrical activity (PEA) and asystole present challenges in management. Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) in cardiac arrest is promising.

OBJECTIVES: This review provides a focused assessment of POCUS in cardiac arrest, with an overview of transthoracic (TTE) and transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE), uses in arrest, and literature support.

DISCUSSION: Cardiac arrest can be distinguished between shockable and non-shockable rhythms, with management varying based on the rhythm. POCUS provides a diagnostic and prognostic tool in the emergency department (ED), which may improve accuracy in clinical decision-making. Several protocols incorporate POCUS based on different cardiac views. TTE includes parasternal long axis, parasternal short axis, apical 4-chamber, and subxiphoid views, which may be used in cardiac arrest for diagnosis of underlying cause and potential prognostication. TEE is conducted by inserting the probe into the esophagus of intubated patients, with several studies evaluating its use in cardiac arrest. It is associated with few adverse effects, while allowing continued compressions (and evaluation of those compressions) and not interrupting resuscitation efforts.

CONCLUSIONS: POCUS is a valuable diagnostic and prognostic tool in cardiac arrest, with recent literature supporting its diagnostic ability. TTE can guide resuscitation efforts dependent on the rhythm, though TTE should not interrupt other resuscitation measures. TEE can be useful during arrest, but further studies based in the ED are needed.

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