The Use of and Preferences for the Transesophageal Echocardiogram and Pulmonary Artery Catheter Among Cardiovascular Anesthesiologists

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The pulmonary artery catheter (PAC), although widely used in anesthesia for cardiac and vascular surgery, remains controversial. Use of transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) by cardiovascular anesthesiologists may be a substitute or a preference compared with the PAC, but this has been incompletely investigated. An anonymous, cross-sectional survey was mailed to anesthesiologists in Canada and the United States. Anesthesiologists described their use of the PAC and TEE during cardiac and vascular surgery, along with their demographic characteristics. Two hundred sixty-five (77%) of 345 anesthesiologists responded. All had the PAC available for use, and 56% had TEE available. Only 23 (11% overall) reported having undergone echocardiography training, half of whom had completed fellowships. Both the PAC and TEE were more often used in cardiac valvular surgery (P = 0.0001) than in aortocoronary bypass or abdominal vascular surgery. Among all anesthesiologists, the PAC remained the preferred monitor in either cardiac or vascular surgery (P = 0.0001), although many indicated a preference for neither monitor. Among anesthesiologists with echocardiography training, TEE was preferred (P = 0.0004). We found that TEE was accessible to more than half of the surveyed anesthesiologists in cardiovascular surgery, but relatively few of them had completed formal training in its use. Only those with completed formal TEE training indicated a significant preference for TEE use and also used it frequently. Given the continuing controversy about the appropriate application of the PAC, concern about the appropriate application of TEE is prudent. The PAC remains the more frequently used and preferred monitor among cardiovascular anesthesiologists.

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