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Acad Emerg Med. 2010 Oct;17(10):1035-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2010.00830.x.

Ultrasound assessment of severe dehydration in children with diarrhea and vomiting.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Brown University Alpert Medical School, Providence, RI, USA.



The objective of this study was to determine the test characteristics for two different ultrasound (US) measures of severe dehydration in children (aorta to inferior vena cava [IVC] ratio and IVC inspiratory collapse) and one clinical measure of severe dehydration (the World Health Organization [WHO] dehydration scale).


The authors enrolled a prospective cohort of children presenting with diarrhea and/or vomiting to three rural Rwandan hospitals. Children were assessed clinically using the WHO scale and then underwent US of the IVC by a second clinician. All children were weighed on admission and then fluid-resuscitated according to standard hospital protocols. A percent weight change between admission and discharge of greater than 10% was considered the criterion standard for severe dehydration. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves were created for each of the three tests of severe dehydration compared to the criterion standard.


Children ranged in age from 1 month to 10 years; 29% of the children had severe dehydration according to the criterion standard. Of the three different measures of dehydration tested, only US assessment of the aorta/IVC ratio had an area under the ROC curve statistically different from the reference line. At its best cut-point, the aorta/IVC ratio had a sensitivity of 93% and specificity of 59%, compared with 93% and 35% for IVC inspiratory collapse and 73% and 43% for the WHO scale.


Ultrasound of the aorta/IVC ratio can be used to identify severe dehydration in children presenting with acute diarrhea and may be helpful in guiding clinical management.

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