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Anesth Analg. 2019 Jun;128(6):1208-1216. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000003759.

Point-of-Care Ultrasound Abnormalities in Late-Onset Severe Preeclampsia: Prevalence and Association With Serum Albumin and Brain Natriuretic Peptide.

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From the Department of Anaesthesia, Intensive Care Medicine and Pain Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
Department of Anesthesiology, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.
Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.
Department of Anaesthesia and Perioperative Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa.
Biostatistics Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa.
School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa.



Pilot studies applying point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) in preeclampsia indicate the presence of pulmonary interstitial edema, cerebral edema, and cardiac dysfunction. Laboratory markers of oncotic pressure (albumin) and cardiac dysfunction (brain natriuretic peptide [BNP]) may be abnormal, but the clinical application remains unclear. We investigated the prevalence of pulmonary interstitial syndrome (PIS), cardiac dysfunction, and increased optic nerve sheath diameter (ONSD) in late-onset preeclampsia with severe features. The primary aim was to examine the association between PIS or ONSD and maternal serum albumin level. The secondary aims were to explore the association between cardiac dysfunction and PIS, ONSD, BNP, and serum albumin level and between POCUS-derived parameters and a suspicious or pathological cardiotocograph.


Ninety-five women were enrolled in this prospective observational cohort study. A POCUS examination of lungs, heart, and ONSD was performed. PIS was defined as a bilateral B-line pattern on lung ultrasound and diastolic dysfunction according to an algorithm of the American Society of Echocardiography. ONSD >5.8 mm was interpreted as compatible with raised intracranial pressure (>20 mm Hg). Serum BNP and albumin levels were also measured.


PIS, diastolic dysfunction, systolic dysfunction, and raised left ventricular end-diastolic pressure (LVEDP) were present in 23 (24%), 31 (33%), 9 (10%), and 20 (25%) women, respectively. ONSD was increased in 27 (28%) women. Concerning the primary outcome, there was no association between albumin level and PIS (P = .4) or ONSD (P = .63). With respect to secondary outcomes, there was no association between albumin level and systolic dysfunction (P = .21) or raised LVEDP (P = .44). PIS was associated with diastolic dysfunction (P = .02) and raised LVEDP (P = .009; negative predictive value, 85%). BNP level was associated with systolic (P < .001) and diastolic dysfunction (P = .003) and LVEDP (P = .007). No association was found between POCUS abnormalities and a suspicious/pathological cardiotocograph (P = .07).


PIS, diastolic dysfunction, and increased ONSD were common in preeclampsia with severe features. Cardiac ultrasound abnormalities may be more useful than albumin levels in predicting PIS. The absence of PIS may exclude raised LVEDP. The further clinical relevance of PIS and raised ONSD remains to be established. BNP level was associated with cardiac ultrasound abnormalities. Although this study was not designed to directly influence clinical management, the findings suggest that POCUS may serve as a useful adjunct to clinical examination for the obstetric anesthesiologist managing these complex patients.

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