Characteristic pattern of pleural effusion in electrical impedance tomography images of critically ill patients

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Abstract

Background:

Electrical impedance tomography (EIT) is increasingly used for continuous monitoring of ventilation in intensive care patients. Clinical observations in patients with pleural effusion show an increase in out-of-phase impedance changes. We hypothesised that out-of-phase impedance changes are a typical EIT finding in patients with pleural effusion and could be useful in its detection.

Methods:

We conducted a prospective observational study in intensive care unit patients with and without pleural effusion. In patients with pleural effusion, EIT data were recorded before, during, and after unilateral drainage of pleural effusion. In patients with no pleural effusion, EIT data were recorded without any intervention. EIT images were separated into four quadrants of equal size. We analysed the sum of out-of-phase impedance changes in the affected quadrant in patients with pleural effusion before, during, and after drainage and compared it with the sum of out-of-phase impedance changes in the dorsal quadrants of patients without pleural effusion.

Results:

We included 20 patients with pleural effusion and 10 patients without pleural effusion. The median sum of out-of-phase impedance changes was 70 (interquartile range 49–119) arbitrary units (a.u.) in patients with pleural effusion before drainage, 25 (12–46) a.u. after drainage (P<0.0001) and 11 (6–17) a.u. in patients without pleural effusion (P<0.0001 vs pleural effusion before drainage). The area under the receiver operating characteristics curve was 0.96 (95% limits of agreement 0.91–1.01) between patients with pleural effusion before drainage and those without pleural effusion.

Conclusions:

In patients monitored with EIT, the presence of out-of-phase impedance changes is highly suspicious of pleural effusion and should trigger further examination.

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