Ultrasound assessment of gastric content and volume

Anesthesiology. 2009 Jul;111(1):82-9. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0b013e3181a97250.


Background: Aspiration of gastric contents can be a serious perioperative complication, attributing up to 9% of all anesthesia-related deaths. However, there is currently no practical, noninvasive bedside test to determine gastric content and volume in the perioperative period.

Methods: The current study evaluates the feasibility of using bedside ultrasonography for assessing gastric content and volume. In the pilot phase, 18 healthy volunteers were examined to assess the gastric antrum, body, and fundus in cross-section in five prandial states: fasting and after ingestion of 250 mL of water, 500 mL of water, 500 mL of effervescent water, and a solid meal. In the phase II study, the authors concentrated on ultrasound examination of the gastric antrum in 36 volunteers for whom regression analysis was used to determine the correlation between gastric volume and antral cross-sectional area.

Results: The gastric antrum provided the most reliable quantitative information for gastric volume. The antral cross-sectional area correlated with volumes of up to 300 mL in a close-to-linear fashion, particularly when subjects were in the right lateral decubitus position. Sonographic assessment of the gastric antrum and body provides qualitative information about gastric content (empty or not empty) and its nature (gas, fluid, or solid). The fundus was the gastric area least amenable to image and measure.

Conclusions: Our preliminary results suggest that bedside two-dimensional ultrasonography can be a useful noninvasive tool to determine gastric content and volume.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Gastric Emptying / physiology
  • Gastrointestinal Contents*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Size / physiology
  • Pilot Projects
  • Point-of-Care Systems / standards
  • Prospective Studies
  • Stomach / anatomy & histology*
  • Stomach / diagnostic imaging*
  • Stomach / physiology
  • Ultrasonography
  • Young Adult