Background: Echographic examination of the lung surface may reveal multiple "comet-tail images" originating from water-thickened interlobular septa. These images could be useful for noninvasive assessment of interstitial pulmonary edema.
Study objective: The purpose of this study was to assess the diagnostic accuracy of lung comet-tail images compared with chest radiography, wedge pressure, and extravascular lung water (EVLW) quantified by the indicator dilution method (PiCCO System, version 4.1; Pulsion Medical Systems; Munich, Germany).
Methods and patients: We enrolled 20 patients (mean age, 62.6 +/- 11.5 years [+/- SD]). Patients were studied before, immediately after, and 24 h following cardiac surgery with chest ultrasound, chest radiography, pulmonary artery catheterization, and the PiCCO system. Performing echo scanning (right and left hemithorax, from second to fourth intercostal space, from parasternal to midaxillary line), an individual patient comet score was obtained by summing the number of comets in each scanned space.
Results: A total of 60 comparisons were obtained. Significant positive linear correlations were found between comet score and EVLW determined by the PiCCO System (r = 0.42, p = 0.001), between comet score and wedge pressure (r = 0.48, p = 0.01), and between comet score and radiologic lung water score (r = 0.60, p = 0.0001).
Conclusions: The presence and the number of comet-tail images provide reliable information on interstitial pulmonary edema. Therefore, ultrasonography represent an attractive, easy-to-use, bedside diagnostic tool for assessing cardiac function and pulmonary congestion.