Ultrasound in anesthesia: applying scientific principles to clinical practice.
The use of ultrasound as an adjunct to invasive anesthesia procedures is becoming commonplace. The U.S. Agency for Health Care Quality and the United Kingdom National Institute for Clinical Excellence have identified the role of ultrasound in improving patient safety. Numerous studies have demonstrated the benefits of ultrasound, yet there have also been articles inferring it may not offer additional benefits to traditional landmark techniques. The major disadvantage often cited is that success is user-dependent, and using ultrasound is a unique skill that requires training and experience to become proficient. Modern ultrasound systems incorporate 2 sound technologies to provide users with specific information about what is being viewed. Brightness mode imaging and pulsed-wave Doppler can be combined to reduce potential complications associated with central venous access and regional anesthesia. Human tissue is also an important factor in ultrasound imaging. The different densities of soft tissues, bone, fluid, and air all interact with sound, creating distinctive images that can aid and potentially hinder accuracy. Comprehension of basic ultrasound principles and how it is affected by tissue will enable anesthetists to better understand what is being seen and reduce the potential for errors.
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