Effect of Body Repositioning after Venous Air Embolism: An Echocardiographic Study

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BackgroundCurrent therapy for massive venous air embolism (VAE) may include the use of the left lateral recumbent (LLR) position, although its effectiveness has been questioned. This study used transesophageal echocardiography to evaluate the effect of body repositioning on intracardiac air and acute cardiac dimension changes.MethodsEighteen anesthetized dogs in the supine position received a venous air injection of 2.5 ml/kg at a rate of 5 ml/s. After 1 min the dogs were repositioned into either the LLR, LLR 10 degrees head down (LLR-10 degrees), right lateral recumbence, or remained in the supine position.ResultsRepositioning after VAE resulted in relocation of intracardiac air to nondependent areas of the right heart. Peak right ventricular (RV) diameter increase and mean arterial pressure decrease were greater in the repositioned animals compared with those in the supine position (P < 0.05). Right ventricular diameter and mean arterial pressure showed an inverse correlation (r = 0.81). Peak left atrial diameter decrease was greater in the LLR and LLR-10 degrees positions compared with the supine position (P < 0.05). Repositioning did not influence peak pulmonary artery pressure increase, and no correlation was found between RV diameter and pulmonary artery pressure. All animals showed electrocardiogram and echocardiographic changes reconcilable with myocardial ischemia.ConclusionsIn dogs, body repositioning after VAE provided no benefit in hemodynamic performance or cardiac dimension changes, although relocation of intracardiac air was demonstrated. Right ventricular air did not appear to result in significant RV outflow obstruction, as pulmonary artery pressure increased uniformly in all groups and was not influenced by the relocation of intracardiac air. The combination of increased RV afterload and arterial hypotension, possibly with subsequent RV ischemia rather than RV outflow obstruction by an airlock appeared to be the primary mechanism for cardiac dysfunction after VAE.

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