What is the role of TEE in the workup of venous air embolism (VAE)?

Updated: Dec 30, 2017
  • Author: Brenda L Natal, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Erik D Schraga, MD  more...
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Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) has the highest sensitivity for detecting the presence of air in the right ventricular outflow tract or major pulmonary veins. It can detect as little as 0.02 mL/kg of air administered by bolus injection. [1, 2, 5, 11, 15, 18, 22, 23, 38] It also has the added advantage of identifying paradoxical air embolism (PAE), and Doppler allows audible detection of venous air embolism (VAE).

Echocardiography, both TEE and transthoracic echocardiography (TTE), not only allows diagnosis of VAE but also aids in the diagnosis of cardiac anomalies, assessment of volume status, pulmonary hypertension, and cardiac contractility, thereby allowing exclusion of other causes of hypotension, dyspnea, and aiding in further patient management. The use of bedside TTE has become more common in emergency medicine. Its use in a case of VAE described by Maddukuri et al aided in the diagnosis and prompt initiation of appropriate therapy. [39]

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