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World J Emerg Med. 2019;10(1):46-50. doi: 10.5847/wjem.j.1920-8642.2019.01.007.

Assessment of clinical dehydration using point of care ultrasound for pediatric patients in rural Panama.

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School of Medicine, University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.
Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California Irvine, Orange, CA 92868, USA.



Dehydration and its associated symptoms are among the most common chief complaints of children in rural Panama. Previous studies have shown that intravascular volume correlates to the ratio of the diameters of the inferior vena cava (IVC) to the aorta (Ao). Our study aims to determine if medical students can detect pediatric dehydration using ultrasound on patients in rural Panama.


This was a prospective, observational study conducted in the Bocas del Toro region of rural Panama. Children between the ages of 1 to 15 years presenting with diarrhea, vomiting, or parasitic infection were enrolled in the study. Ultrasound measurements of the diameters of the IVC and abdominal aorta were taken to assess for dehydration.


A total of 59 patients were enrolled in this study. Twenty-four patients were clinically diagnosed with dehydration and 35 were classified to have normal hydration status. Of the 24 patients with dehydration, half (n=12) of these patients had an IVC/Ao ratio below the American threshold of 0.8. Of the remaining asymptomatic subjects, about half (n=18) of these subjects also had an IVC/Ao ratio below the American threshold of 0.8.


Our study did not support previous literature showing that the IVC/Ao ratio is lower in children with dehydration. It is possible that the American standard for evaluating clinical dehydration is not compatible with the rural pediatric populations of Panama.


Dehydration; Medical education; Panama; Parasitic infection; Rural medicine; Ultrasound

Conflict of interest statement

Conflicts of interest: Dr. J Christian Fox receives stock options from Sonosim for consulting. However, no Sonosim products were used in this research project.

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