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AllThingsNeonatal posted a blog entry in All Things NeonatalWhen I think back to my early days as a medical student, one of the first lessons on the physical exam involves checking central and peripheral perfusion as part of the cardiac exam. In the newborn to assess the hemodynamic status I have often taught that while the blood pressure is a nice number to have it is important to remember that it is a number that is the product of two important factors; resistance and flow. It is possible then that a newborn with a low blood pressure could have good flow but poor vascular tone (warm shock) or poor flow and increased vascular tone (cardiogenic shock or hypovolemia). Similarly, the baby with good perfusion could be in septic shock and be vasodilated with good flow. In other words the use of capillary and blood pressure may not tell you what you really want to know. Is there a better way? As I have written about previously, point of care ultrasound is on the rise in Neonatology. As more trainees are being taught the skill and equipment more readily available opportunities abound for testing various hypotheses about the benefit of such technology. In addition to my role as a clinical Neonatologist I am also the Medical Director of the Child Health Transport Team and have pondered about a future where ultrasound is taken on retrievals to enhance patient assessment. I was delighted therefore to see a small but interesting study published on this very topic this past month. Browning Carmo KB and colleagues shared their experience in retrieving 44 infants in their paper Feasibility and utility of portable ultrasound during retrieval of sick preterm infants. The study amounted to a proof of concept and took 7 years to complete in large part due to the rare availability of staff who were trained in ultrasound to retrieve patients. These were mostly small higher risk patients (median birthweight, 1130 g (680–1960 g) and median gestation, 27 weeks (23–30)). Availability of a laptop based ultrasound device made this study possible now that there are nearly palm sized and tablet based ultrasound units this study would be even more feasible now (sometimes they were unable to send a three person team due to weight reasons when factoring in the ultrasound equipment). Without going into great detail the measurements included cardiac (structural and hemodynamic) & head ultrasounds. Bringing things full circle it is the hemodynamic assessment that I found the most interesting. Can we rely on capillary refill? From previous work normal values for SVC flow are >50 ml/kg/min and for Right ventricular output > 150 ml/kg/min. These thresholds if not met have been correlated with adverse long term outcomes and in the short term need for inotropic support. In the absence of these ultrasound measurements one would use capillary refill and blood pressure to determine the clinical status but how accurate is it? First of all out of the 44 patients retrieved, assessment in the field demonstrated 27 (61%) had evidence using these parameters of low systemic blood flow. After admission to the NICU 8 had persistent low systemic blood flow with the patients shown below in the table. The striking finding (at least to me) is that 6 out of 8 had capillary refill times < 2 seconds. With respect to blood pressure 5/8 had mean blood pressures that would be considered normal or even elevated despite clearly compromised systemic blood flow. To answer the question I have posed in this section I think the answer is that capillary refill and I would also add blood pressure are not telling you the whole story. I suspect in these patients the numbers were masking the true status of the patient. How safe is transport? One other aspect of the study which I hope would provide some relief to those of us who transport patients long distance is that the head ultrasound findings before and after transport were unchanged. Transport with all of it’s movement to and fro and vibrations would not seem to put babies at risk of intracranial bleeding. Where do we go from here? Before we all jump on the bandwagon and spend a great deal of money buying such equipment it needs to be said “larger studies are needed” looking at such things as IVH. Although it is reassuring that patients with IVH did not have extension of such bleeding after transport, it needs to be recognized that with such a small study I am not comfortable saying that the case is closed. What I am concerned about though is the lack of correlation between SVC and RVO measurements and the findings we have used for ages to estimate hemodynamic status in patients. There will be those who resist such change as it does require effort to acquire a new set of skills. I do see this happening though as we move forward if we want to have the most accurate assessment of clinical status in our patients. As equipment with high resolution becomes increasingly available at lower price points, how long can we afford not to adapt?
AllThingsNeonatal posted a blog entry in All Things NeonatalIt has been some time since I wrote on the topic of point of care ultrasound (POC). The first post spoke to the benefits of reducing radiation exposure in the NICU but was truly theoretical and also was really at the start of our experience in the evolving area. Here we are a year later and much has transpired. We purchased an ultrasound for the NICU in one of our level III units and now have two more on the way; one for our other level III and one for our level II unit. The thrust of these acquisitions have been to reduce radiation exposure for one but also to shorten the time to diagnosis for a number of conditions. No matter how efficient x-ray technologists are, from the time a requisition is placed to the arrival of the tech, placement of the baby and then processing of the film, it is much longer than using a POC at the bedside. Having said that though is it accurate? There are many examples to choose from but when thinking about times when one would like an answer quickly I can’t think of anything much better than a pneumothorax. Chest X-ray vs POC for Diagnosis of Pneumothorax The diagnosis of a pneumothorax is easily diagnosed by ultrasound when there is an absence of lung sliding as seen in this video. In the majority of cases employing POC we are looking at ultrasound artifacts. In the case of pleural sliding which is best described as ants marching, it’s absence indicates the presence of a pneumothorax. The “lung point” sign as shown in thisvideo marks the transition from pleural sliding to none and in a mode called “M” appears as a bar code when the pneumothorax is present. Using such signs Raimondi F et al as part of the LUCI (Lung Ultrasound in the Crashing Infant) group compared traditional x-ray diagnosis as the gold standard to POC for diagnosis of pneumothorax. This study is important as it demonstrated two very important things in the 42 infants who were enrolled in the study. The first was the accuracy of POC. In this study each patient had both an ultrasound and an x-ray and the results compared to determine how accurate the POC was. Additionally in cases where there was no time for an x-ray to confirm the clinical suspicion the accuracy of the study was determined based on the finding of air with decompression along with abrupt clinical improvement. In case people are wondering infants as small as 24 weeks were included in the study with an average weight of 1531 +/-832 g for included infants. The accuracy was stunning with a sensitivity and specificity of 100% each. Comparing this with clinical evaluation (transillumination, assessment of breath sounds) was far less accurate with a sensitivity of 84% (65-96) and specificity 56% (30-80). Adding to the accuracy of the test is the efficiency of the procedure. “After clinical decompensation, lung ultrasound scans were completed in a mean time of 5.3 +/- 5.6 minutes vs a mean time of 19 +/- 11.7 minutes required for a chest radiograph (P < .001).” In short, it is very accurate and can be done quickly. In an emergency, can you think of a better test? If efficiency weren’t enough what about the reduction in radiation exposure? This was the focus of a recent paper by Escourrou G & Deluca D entitled Lung ultrasound decreased radiation exposure in preterm infants in a neonatal intensive care unit. The authors in this study chose to examine retrospecitively the period from 2012 – 2014 as in 2013 they rolled out a program of teaching POC ultrasound to clinicians. The purpose of this paper was to see if practitioners educated in interpretation of ultrasound would actually change their practice and use less ionizing radiation. Their main findings are indicated in the table Test 2012 2014 p Min 1 x-ray during admission 81% 70% <0.001 Total x-rays 1976 1476 Mean x-rays per patient 4.9+/-1.5 2.6+/-1.0 <0.001 Mean radiation dose (microGy) 183+/-78 68+/-30 <0.001 As they predicted use of ionizing radiation dropped dramatically. I should also mention that they tracked outcomes such as IVH, mortality and BPD to name a few and found no change over time. In conclusion the use of ultrasound did not affect major outcomes but did spare each neonate ionizing radiation. Now before anyone hits the panic button I still think the amounts of radiation here are safe for the most part. In Canada the maximum allowed dose for the public per year is 1 mSv which is the equivalent of 1000 microGy. This was obtained from the Nuclear Safety agency in Canada in case you are interested in finding out more about radiation safety limits. Back in 2012 at least in this study, 2 standard deviations from the mean would have put the level received at a little over a third of what the annual limit is but it is the outliers we need to think of. What about kids getting near daily x-rays while on high frequency ventilation or for monitoring pleural fluid collections? There certainly are many who could receive much higher dosages and it is for those kids that I believe this technology is so imperative to embrace. It will take time to adopt and much patience. With any new roll out there is a learning curve. Yes there will be learners who will need to handle patients and yes there will be studies done at times to obtain the skills necessary to perform studies in an efficient and correct manner but I assure you it will be worth it. If we have a way of obtaining faster and accurate diagnoses and avoiding ionizing radiation don’t we owe it to our patients and families to obtain such skill? I look forward to achieving a centre of excellence utilizing such strategies and much like this last study it will be interesting to look back in a year an see how things have changed.
Professor Nick Evans at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, Australia, emailed some good news about the education programs "Practical Ultrasound for the Neonatologist". The programs, one on echocardiography and one on brain ultrasound, is no longer distributed on CD-roms, but as digital downloads. Prices have also dropped to only 25 AUD (about 17 euro) + local taxes. The current downloadable programs are the same as anyone who bought the CDs since 2006 would have. Past CD customers are offered a digital license for free and anyone who downloads the programs in the near future before any upgrades are available will also get future upgrades for free. As before, the program currently only works on Windows but a Mac version might be offered in the future. The direct link to the on-line shop is https://practical-neonatal-ultrasound.selz.com/. As before, all profits go to support teaching and research in neonatal haemodynamics. The link to the department is http://www.slhd.nsw.gov.au/rpa/neonatal/default.html
Course in Neonatal Cranial Ultrasound, ender the directorship of Dr Frances Cowan, alongside Professor Linda de Vries and Dr Gerda van Wezel-Meijler, all renowned and highly respected professionals in the field. The basic course 5 March 2014 and the advanced course 6-7 March 2014, in London, UK. The fee for all three days is 435 GBP. Read more about this event here: http://www.symposia.org.uk/main/eventprog.asp?evcd=14.01 http://www.symposia.org.uk/main/eventprog.asp?evcd=14.02