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Original Research: CRITICAL CARE MEDICINE |

A-Lines and B-Lines: Lung Ultrasound as a Bedside Tool for Predicting Pulmonary Artery Occlusion Pressure in the Critically Ill

Daniel A. Lichtenstein, MD, FCCP; Gilbert A. Mezière, MD; Jean-François Lagoueyte, MD; Philippe Biderman, MD; Ivan Goldstein, MD; Agnès Gepner, MD
Author and Funding Information

Affiliations: From the Medical ICU (Drs. Lichtenstein and Biderman), Hôpital Ambroise-Paré, Boulogne, France; ICU (Drs. Mezière and Gepner), Centre Hospitalier, Saint-Cloud, France; Hôpital Bichat (Dr. Lagoueyte), Paris, France; and Surgical ICU (Dr. Goldstein), Hôpital Pitié, Paris, France.

Correspondence to: Daniel A. Lichtenstein, MD, FCCP, Service de Réanimation Médicale, Hôpital Ambroise-Paré, F-92100 Boulogne (Paris-Ouest), France; e-mail: dlicht@free.fr


Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (www.chestjournal.org/site/misc/reprints.xhtml).


© 2009 American College of Chest Physicians


Chest. 2009;136(4):1014-1020. doi:10.1378/chest.09-0001
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Background:  The risk of pulmonary edema is the main limiting factor in fluid therapy in the critically ill. Interstitial edema is a subclinical step that precedes alveolar edema. This study assesses a bedside tool for detecting interstitial edema, lung ultrasound. The A-line is a horizontal artifact indicating a normal lung surface. The B-line is a kind of comet-tail artifact indicating subpleural interstitial edema. The relationship between anterior interstitial edema detected by lung ultrasound and the pulmonary artery occlusion pressure (PAOP) value was investigated.

Method:  We performed a prospective study in medicosurgical ICUs of university-affiliated teaching hospitals. We enrolled 102 consecutive mechanically ventilated patients who all underwent pulmonary artery catheterization. We defined A-predominance as a majority of anterior A-lines and B-predominance as a majority of anterior B-lines. These patterns were correlated with PAOP.

Results:  For diagnosing PAOP ≤ 13 mm Hg, A-predominance had 90% specificity, 67% sensitivity, 91% positive predictive value, and 65% negative predictive value. For diagnosing PAOP ≤ 18 mm Hg, A-predominance had 93% specificity, 50% sensitivity, 97% positive predictive value, and 24% negative predictive value, respectively.

Conclusions:  A-predominance indicates dry interlobular septa. Specific to predicting a low PAOP value, A-predominance suggests that fluid may be given without initial concern for the development of hydrostatic pulmonary edema. B-predominance indicates interstitial syndrome, which is usually related to interstitial edema. B-predominance is observed in a wide range of PAOP values, precluding conclusions about the need for fluid therapy. This bedside potential will be appreciated by those intensivists who envision fluid therapy based on low PAOP values and who consider that using the concept of a safety factor provided by lung ultrasound is logical.

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