Focused echocardiography: a systematic review of diagnostic and clinical decision-making in anaesthesia and critical care

Heiberg, J. et al. (2016). Anaesthesia. Volume 71(9). pp. 1091–1100

524px-transesophageal_echocardiography_diagram-svg
Image source: Patrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator – Wikipedia // CC BY 2.5

Image shows illustration of transesophageal echocardiography ultrasound diagram

Focused echocardiography is becoming a widely used tool to aid clinical assessment by anaesthetists and critical care physicians. At the present time, most physicians are not yet trained in focused echocardiography or believe that it may result in adverse outcomes by delaying, or otherwise interfering with, time-critical patient management.

We performed a systematic review of electronic databases on the topic of focused echocardiography in anaesthesia and critical care. We found 18 full text articles, which consistently reported that focused echocardiography may be used to identify or exclude previously unrecognised or suspected cardiac abnormalities, resulting in frequent important changes to patient management. However, most of the articles were observational studies with inherent design flaws. Thirteen prospective studies, including two that measured patient outcome, were supportive of focused echocardiography, whereas five retrospective cohort studies, including three outcome studies, did not support focused echocardiography. There is an urgent requirement for randomised controlled trials.

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