Precordial Doppler Probe Placement for Optimal Detection of Venous Air Embolism During Craniotomy

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Verification of appropriate precordial Doppler probe position over the anterior chest wall is crucial for early detection of venous air embolism. We studied responses to normal saline (NS) and carbon dioxide (CO2) test injections at various probe locations during elective craniotomy. All patients received four IV injections (10 mL of NS and 1 mL of CO2 via central and peripheral venous catheters). Doppler sounds were simultaneously recorded with two separate probes. In Group A, probes were placed in left and right parasternal positions. In Group B, the left probe was intentionally malpositioned as far laterally over the left precordium as was compatible with an audible signal. In Group A (n = 23), a left parasternal Doppler signal was easily obtainable in 23 of 23 patients, versus 18 of 23 patients for the right parasternal probe (P < 0.05). In Group B (n = 17), central CO2 injection yielded a positive right parasternal response rate of 88% compared with 29% over the far left precordium (P < 0.015), where central NS injections yielded a 76% response rate (P < 0.015 versus central CO2 injection). Left parasternal placement is at least as sensitive to clinical venous air embolism events as right parasternal placement. Peripheral saline injection represents a viable alternative (83% response rate). Vigorous central injection of 10 mL of NS however, risks false positive verification of left lateral precordial probe placement.

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