Utility of ultrasound in the ICU

Curr Opin Anaesthesiol. 2014 Apr;27(2):123-32. doi: 10.1097/ACO.0000000000000057.


Purpose of review: Use of ultrasound in the acute care setting has become more common in recent years. However, it still remains underutilized in the perioperative management of critical patients. In this review, we aim to increase the awareness of ultrasound as an important diagnostic modality that can be used in the perioperative period to improve patient care. Our main focus will be in describing the diagnostic uses of ultrasound to identify cardiac, pulmonary, airway and vascular diseases commonly encountered in acute care settings.

Recent findings: We find that ultrasound can be used in a quick fashion to assess a haemodynamically unstable patient. Protocols are available to use ultrasound as a part of cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Ultrasound can help in deciding fluid vs. pressor treatment by evaluating the inferior vena cava and other cardiac structures.Lung ultrasound can not only help in diagnosing pneumothoracies and effusions but also look at lung recruitment and diaphragmatic movement, hence can aid in deciding extubation strategies. This modality can be utilized for confirmation of endotracheal tube.Recent interest in axillary vein cannulation with ultrasound guidance has gained some momentum.

Summary: This article covers the recent developments and literature available on point of care ultrasound and its utilization in the perioperative period. We have not covered some other important uses of ultrasound such as abdominal examination looking at the aorta and other abdominal organs. This was beyond the scope of this article.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Echocardiography
  • Echocardiography, Transesophageal
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Intubation, Intratracheal
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Perioperative Period
  • Ultrasonography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Vena Cava, Inferior / diagnostic imaging