Although pericardial effusions (PE) and pleural effusions (PLE) may lead to life-threatening respiratory and circulatory deterioration following open heart surgery the postoperative frequency is not fully recognized. The diagnosis is typically based on ultrasonography, X-ray or computer tomography and often disclosed when circulatory collapse is evident. Point-of-care (POC) ultrasonography protocols constitute a noninvasive evaluation of the cardiopulmonary status. We hypothesized that POC ultrasonography could diagnose unknown PE and PLE.
Patients scheduled for open heart surgery were eligible for inclusion. Baseline evaluation including POC examination and dyspnea score was performed one day prior to surgery and repeated on the 4th and 30th postoperative day.
Eighty patients were included and complete follow-up was 80%. Thirteen patients (19%) had PE on the 4th day postsurgery and 19 patients (30%) had PE on the 30th day. Ultrasonography facilitated change in management in one patient with PE requiring drainage. Forty-nine patients (70%) had PLE on the 4th day following surgery and 19 patients (30%) had PLE on the 30th postoperative day. Ultrasonography facilitated a change in management in seven patients with PLE requiring drainage.
POC ultrasonography detected pathology, otherwise undisclosed, and was responsible for a change in management in a considerable number of cases.