Ultrasound of extravascular lung water: A new standard for pulmonary congestion

Eugenio Picano, Patricia A. Pellikka

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

152 Scopus citations

Abstract

Extravascular lung water (EVLW) is a key variable in heart failure management and prognosis, but its objective assessment remains elusive. Lung imaging has been traditionally considered off-limits for ultrasound techniques due to the acoustic barrier of high-impedance air wall. In pulmonary congestion however, the presence of both air and water creates a peculiar echo fingerprint. Lung ultrasound shows B-lines, comet-like signals arising from a hyper-echoic pleural line with a to-and-fro movement synchronized with respiration. Increasing EVLW accumulation changes the normal, no-echo signal (black lung, no EVLW) into a black-and-white pattern (interstitial sub-pleural oedema with multiple B-lines) or a white lung pattern (alveolar pulmonary oedema) with coalescing B-lines. The number and spatial extent of B-lines on the antero-lateral chest allows a semi-quantitative estimation of EVLW (from absent, ≤5, to severe pulmonary oedema, >30 B-lines). Wet B-lines are made by water and decreased by diuretics, which cannot modify dry B-lines made by connective tissue. B-lines can be evaluated anywhere (including extreme environmental conditions with pocket size instruments to detect high-altitude pulmonary oedema), anytime (during dialysis to titrate intervention), by anyone (even a novice sonographer after 1 h training), and on anybody (since the chest acoustic window usually remains patent when echocardiography is not feasible). Cardiologists can achieve much diagnostic gain with little investment of technology, training, and time. B-lines represent 'the shape of lung water'. They allow non-invasive detection, in real time, of even sub-clinical forms of pulmonary oedema with a low cost, radiation-free approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2097-2104
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean heart journal
Volume37
Issue number27
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 14 2016

Keywords

  • Lung
  • Oedema
  • Ultrasound
  • Water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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