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Eur Heart J. 2016 Jul 14;37(27):2097-104. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehw164. Epub 2016 May 12.

Ultrasound of extravascular lung water: a new standard for pulmonary congestion.

Author information

1
CNR Institute of Clinical Physiology, Italian National Research Council, Pisa 56124, Italy picano@ifc.cnr.it.
2
Department of Cardiovascular Diseases, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, MN, USA.

Abstract

Extravascular lung water (EVLW) is a key variable in heart failure management and prognosis, but its objective assessment remains elusive. Lung imaging has been traditionally considered off-limits for ultrasound techniques due to the acoustic barrier of high-impedance air wall. In pulmonary congestion however, the presence of both air and water creates a peculiar echo fingerprint. Lung ultrasound shows B-lines, comet-like signals arising from a hyper-echoic pleural line with a to-and-fro movement synchronized with respiration. Increasing EVLW accumulation changes the normal, no-echo signal (black lung, no EVLW) into a black-and-white pattern (interstitial sub-pleural oedema with multiple B-lines) or a white lung pattern (alveolar pulmonary oedema) with coalescing B-lines. The number and spatial extent of B-lines on the antero-lateral chest allows a semi-quantitative estimation of EVLW (from absent, ≤5, to severe pulmonary oedema, >30 B-lines). Wet B-lines are made by water and decreased by diuretics, which cannot modify dry B-lines made by connective tissue. B-lines can be evaluated anywhere (including extreme environmental conditions with pocket size instruments to detect high-altitude pulmonary oedema), anytime (during dialysis to titrate intervention), by anyone (even a novice sonographer after 1 h training), and on anybody (since the chest acoustic window usually remains patent when echocardiography is not feasible). Cardiologists can achieve much diagnostic gain with little investment of technology, training, and time. B-lines represent 'the shape of lung water'. They allow non-invasive detection, in real time, of even sub-clinical forms of pulmonary oedema with a low cost, radiation-free approach.

KEYWORDS:

Lung; Oedema; Ultrasound; Water

PMID:
27174289
PMCID:
PMC4946750
DOI:
10.1093/eurheartj/ehw164
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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