Skeletal Muscle Ultrasonography in Nutrition and Functional Outcome Assessment of Critically Ill Children: Experience and Insights From Pediatric Disease and Adult Critical Care Studies

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Evidence suggests that critically ill children develop muscle wasting, which could affect outcomes. Muscle ultrasound has been used to track muscle wasting and association with outcomes in critically ill adults but not children. This review aims to summarize methodological considerations of muscle ultrasound, structural findings, and possibilities for its application in the assessment of nutrition and functional outcomes in critically ill children. Medline, Embase, and CINAHL databases were searched up until April 2016. Articles describing skeletal muscle ultrasound in children and critically ill adults were analyzed qualitatively for details on techniques and findings. Thickness and cross-sectional area of various upper and lower body muscles have been studied to quantify muscle mass and detect muscle changes. The quadriceps femoris muscle is one of the most commonly measured muscles due to its relation to mobility and is sensitive to changes over time. However, the margin of error for quadriceps thickness is too wide to reliably detect muscle changes in critically ill children. Muscle size and its correlation with strength and function also have not yet been studied in critically ill children. Echogenicity, used to detect compromised muscle structure in neuromuscular disease, may be another property worth studying in critically ill children. Muscle ultrasound may be useful in detecting muscle wasting in critically ill children but has not been shown to be sufficiently reliable in this population. Further study of the reliability and correlation with functional outcomes and nutrition intake is required before muscle ultrasound is routinely employed in critically ill children.

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