Background: Aspiration pneumonia remains a serious anesthetic-related complication. A reliable diagnostic tool to assess gastric volume is currently lacking. We recently demonstrated that gastric sonography can provide reliable qualitative and quantitative information about gastric content and volume in healthy volunteers. In the current study, we performed a prospective qualitative and quantitative analysis of the gastric antrum in 200 fasted patients undergoing elective surgery.
Methods: A standardized gastric scanning protocol was applied before anesthetic induction. Patients were classified following a 3-point grading system based solely on qualitative sonographic assessment of the antrum in the supine and right lateral decubitus positions.
Results: Eighty-six patients were classified as grade 0 (empty antrum); 107 patients as grade 1 (minimal fluid volume detected only in the right lateral decubitus position); and 7 patients were classified as grade 2 (antrum clearly distended with fluid visible in both supine and lateral positions). The 3-point grading system correlated with total gastric fluid volume as predicted by a previously reported mathematical model. Essentially grade 0 corresponds to a completely empty stomach, grade 1 corresponds to negligible fluid volumes (16 ± 36 mL) within normal ranges expected for fasted patients, and grade 2 correlates with significantly higher predicted gastric fluid volumes (180 ± 83 mL) beyond previously reported "safe" limits. One patient with a grade 2 antrum had an episode of significant regurgitation of gastric contents on emergence from anesthesia.
Conclusion: We propose a 3-point grading system based exclusively on qualitative sonographic assessment of the gastric antrum that correlates well with predicted gastric volume. This grading system could be a promising "biomarker" to assess perioperative aspiration risk. Before it can be applied widely to clinical practice, this diagnostic tool needs to be further validated and characterized.