Feasibility and Efficacy of Lung Ultrasound to Investigate Pulmonary Complications in Patients who Developed Postoperative Hypoxaemia

A Prospective Study

Chen Xie; Kai Sun; Yueyang You; Yue Ming; Xiaoling Yu; Lina Yu; Jiapeng Huang; Min Yan


BMC Anesthesiol. 2020;20(220) 

In This Article


Postoperative pulmonary complications (PPCs), including atelectasis, pulmonary oedema, pneumonia, etc., are common, persistent and related to poor patient outcomes, medical costs, hospital readmissions and even significant mortality.[1] Hypoxaemia is mainly caused by atelectasis and occurs frequently in the immediate postoperative recovery course in both paediatric and adult patients; hypoxaemia is also associated with nausea, vomiting, postoperative cognitive dysfunction, surgical site infection, arrhythmias, prolonged hospital stay and death.[2–7]

Rapid diagnosis and appropriate management must be made by the anaesthesiologist once hypoxia occurs postoperatively. The use of chest X-rays (CXR) is limited due to the disadvantage of poor quality.[8] Although thoracic computed tomography (CT) is considered the gold standard to elucidate the causes of hypoxia, radiation exposure and the need to transfer unstable patients make CT a less-than-ideal tool. Bedside lung ultrasound (LUS) has the advantages of sensitivity, accuracy, non-radiation, non-invasiveness, reproducibility and convenience. LUS has been validated for the diagnosis of atelectasis, pneumonia, pleural effusion and pneumothorax.[9–14]

The aim of this study was to evaluate the feasibility and efficacy of LUS to diagnose PPCs in patients suffering from hypoxaemia after general anaesthesia in the postanaesthesia care unit (PACU) and compare LUS results with those of thoracic CT.