Feasibility of Focused Cardiac Ultrasound Performed by Trainees During Cesarean Delivery

Anesth Analg. 2024 Aug 1;139(2):332-338. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000006747. Epub 2024 Jul 15.


Background: Anesthesiology experts advocate for formal education in maternal critical care, including the use of focused cardiac ultrasound (FCU) in high-acuity obstetric units. While benefits and feasibility of FCU performed by experts have been well documented, little evidence exists on the feasibility of FCU acquired by examiners with limited experience. The primary aim of this study was to assess how often echocardiographic images of sufficient quality to guide clinical decision-making were attained by trainees with limited experience performing FCU in term parturients undergoing cesarean delivery (CD).

Methods: In this prospective cohort study, healthy term parturients (American Society of Anesthesiologists [ASA] ≤ 3, ≥37 weeks of gestation) with singleton pregnancy, body mass index (BMI) <40 kg/m 2 , and no history of congenital and acquired cardiac disease undergoing scheduled, elective CD were recruited by a trainee. After undergoing standardized training, including an 8-hour online E-learning module, a 1-day hands-on FCU course, and 20 to 30 supervised scans until the trainee was assessed competent in image acquisition, 8 trainees with limited FCU experience performed apical 4-chamber (A4CH), parasternal long-axis (PLAX), and short-axis (PSAX) view preoperatively after spinal anesthesia (SPA) and intraoperatively after neonatal delivery (ND). Obtained FCU images were graded 1 to 5 by 2 blinded instructors (1 = no image to 5 = perfect image obtainable; ≥3 defined as image quality sufficient for clinical decision-making).

Results: Following the screening of 95 women, 8 trainees with limited FCU experience each performed a median of 5 [3-8] FCUs in a total of 64 women. Images of sufficient quality were obtainable in 61 (95.3 %) and 57 (89.1 %) of women after SPA and ND, respectively. FCU images of perfect image quality were obtainable in 9 (14.1 %) and 7 (10.9 %) women preoperatively after SPA and intraoperatively after ND, respectively. A PLAX, PSAX, and A4CH view with grade ≥3 was obtained in 53 (82.8 %), 58 (90.6 %) and 40 (62.5 %) of women preoperatively after SPA and in 50 (78.1 %), 49 (76.6 %), and 29 (45.3 %) of women intraoperatively after ND. Left ventricular function could be assessed in 39 of 40 women (97.5 %) preoperatively after SPA and 39 of 40 (97.5%) intraoperatively after ND. Right ventricular function could be assessed in 31 of 40 (77.5 %) after SPA and in 23 of 40 (59%) after ND. We observed a difference in image grading between different trainees in the AP4CH-view ( P = .0001). No difference in image grading was found between preoperative and intraoperative FCUs.

Conclusions: FCU is feasible in the parturient undergoing CD and images of sufficient quality for clinical decision-making were obtained by trainees with limited experience in almost all parturients. Image acquisition and quality in the A4CH view may be impacted by the individual trainee performing the FCU.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anesthesia, Obstetrical / methods
  • Anesthesiologists / education
  • Anesthesiology / education
  • Cesarean Section*
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Clinical Decision-Making
  • Echocardiography* / methods
  • Feasibility Studies*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies