Tag Archives: critical care

Organizer Christofer Muhr welcomes participants

SonoSweden 2015

Bret Nelson and Felipe Teran took part in an incredible conference just outside of Stockholm, Sweden. Over one hundred participants and twenty faculty attended this sold-out conference at the Hasseludden Yasuragi Japanese spa . Among the luminaries were Matt Dawson and Mike Mallin (from the Ultrasound Podcast), lung ultrasound queen Vicki Noble, Mike Lambert and Joe Wood (directors of the first ultrasound program in the United States), and many, many others.

Videos from the conference are available here. Besides excellent lectures, there were hands-on sessions recorded. An incredible amount of practical information is conveyed during these hands-on sessions, so it is worth checking out some of these videos as well as the lectures. Bret Nelson’s session on aorta scanning is here,


2014 Emergency and Critical Care Ultrasound CME Course

The Mount Sinai Department of Emergency Medicine hosted its annual ultrasound CME conference on April 25. Faculty, fellows, nurses and PAs from a number of institutions and specialties took part in our tenth annual course.

The course was directed by Bret Nelson, MD who introduced ultrasound physics and machine controls, followed by lectures on assessment of  airway and breathing (Jim Tsung, MD, MPH), cardiovascular ultrasound (Jennifer Huang, DO), trauma evaluation (Phil Andrus, MD) and procedure guidance (Amy Sanghvi, MD).

After lunch an intensive hands-on session with live models, task simulators and sim cases rounded out the experience.

Faculty group photo

SonoSweden 2014 course

At the end of January, Bret Nelson joined an incredible team of international a faculty for the largest SonoSweden course to date. Course director Christofer Muhr hosted this unique, intensive hands-on conference at the scenic Yasuragi hotel in Stockholm, Sweden. Over thirty faculty and one hundred participants took part in this three-day course.

Among the faculty were lung ultrasound pioneer Vicki Noble, Matt Dawson and Mike Mallin (creators of the Ultrasound Podscast) and others from around the globe.

Registration is not yet open for the 2015 course, but check out the SonoSweden website for a countdown timer- there were over 100 people on the waiting list for this year’s course!

Papilledema and the Crescent Sign


What’s abnormal in this image?


Here’s a hint.  Here is an example of normal.


When evaluating for possible elevation in intracranial pressure, it has been shown that optic nerve sheath diameter (ONSD) measurements correlate with elevated intracranial pressures.(1,2)  The optic nerve attaches to the globe posteriorly and is wrapped in a sheath that contains cerebral spinal fluid.  The optic nerve sheath is contiguous with the dura mater and has a trabeculated arachnoid space through which cerebrospinal fluid slowly percolates.

ONSD Normal Ranges

Normal Adults < 5 mm
Children >1 yr < 4.5 mm
Infants < 1 yr <4 mm


The ONSD is measured 3 mm posterior to the globe for both eyes.  A position of 3 mm behind the globe is recommended because the ultrasound contrast is greatest.  It is best to average two measurements of each eye.  An average ONSD greater than 5 mm is considered abnormal and elevated intracranial pressure should be suspected.


ONSD Measurement


Crescent Sign

In severe cases of elevated ICP, one can see an echolucent circle within the optic nerve sheath separating the sheath from the nerve due to increased subarachnoid fluid surrounding the optic nerve.  Ophthalmologists refer to this as the crescent sign.



 The Case

40 yo female patient presents with several months of frontal headache associated with photophobia and blurry vision.  Symptoms have gotten much worse over the last few days and she has had difficulty reading and watching TV because of her visual symptoms.  She denies fevers, chills, nausea, vomiting, or focal weakness.   Pt is hypertensive 170/100.  Her vital signs are otherwise normal.

  • Visual acuity - 20/30 OD, 20/70 OS
  • CT head is normal
  • Bedside point of care ultrasound

papilledema cropped from Sinai EM Ultrasound on Vimeo.

Papilledema 2 cropped from Sinai EM Ultrasound on Vimeo.

This patient had enlarged ONSD (measurements were 6 mm bilaterally) as well as papilledema(arrow).


Arrow notes papilledema


Lumbar puncture was performed.  Opening pressure was 44.  30 cc’s of CSF was drained and the closing pressure was 11.  The patient’s headache and visual symptoms improved .  She was started on acetazolamide and admitted to the neurology service.  MRI brain prior to lumbar puncture showed posterior scleral flattening bilaterally with protrusion of the optic nerve in the the globes bilaterally consistent with increased ICP.

This patient’s papilledema and increased ONSD correlated with a markedly increased opening pressure during lumbar puncture and suggests that ocular ultrasound may play a role in the ED management of patients with suspected pseudotumor cerebri.

Pseudotumor cerebri

Elevated intracranial pressure in the abscence of intracranial mass lesion.  Most common in young, over weight women. If the diagnosis is missed, persistently elevated intracranial pressure can lead to optic atrophy and blindness.


  • Lumbar puncture to drain CSF to a normal opening pressure.
  • Medical:  Diomox (acetazolamide), high dose steroids
  • Surgical : Optic nerve sheath fenestration, VP shunt


The ability to diagnose papilledema using bedside sonography is useful to emergency physicians, as many non-ophthalmologist clinicians do not feel confident in their ability to perform an accurate nondilated fundoscopic examination. (3)  Ultrasound provides a useful alternative means of determining the presence or absence of papilledema in a patient in whom fundoscopy cannot be adequately performed.



[1] Geeraerts T, Launey Y, Martin L, et al. Ultrasonography of the optic nerve sheath may be useful for detecting raised intracranial pressure after severe brain injury. Intensive Care Med 2007;33(10):1704-11 [electronic publication 2007 Aug 1]. PMID: 17668184


[2] Kimberly HH, Shah S, Marill K, Noble V. Correlation of optic nerve sheath diameter with direct measurement of intracranial pressure. Acad Emerg Med 2008;15(2):201-4. PMID: 18275454


[3] Wu EH, Fagan MJ, Reinert SE, Diaz JA. Self-confidence in and perceived utility of the physical examination: a comparison of medical students, residents, and faculty internists. J Gen Intern Med 2007;22 (12):1725-30 [electronic publication 2007 Oct 6].  PMID: 17922165


Bubble test

We already know it is helpful to use ultrasound to guide placement of central venous catheters.

How can we use ultrasound to help confirm proper placement of an internal jugular catheter?

There are several methods which have been described:

  • Visualize the needle entering the vein (optimally in the long axis)
  • Visualize the guide wire in the vein
  • Visualize the tip of the triple lumen catheter in the right atrium, then pull back 2 cm
  • Bubble test (more on this below)

In addition there are non-ultrasound-related methods to confirm placement (but who cares about those?):

  • Chest x-ray
  • Blood gas drawn through central venous catheter port
  • Pressure transduction (quantitative- manometry)
  • Pressure transduction (qualitative- attach IV tubing and check height of blood column)

So let’s get back to that bubble test. In order to confirm that the catheter has been placed in the superior vena cava, inject 5-10 cc normal saline through the catheter while visualizing the right heart on a subxiphoid 4-chamber view.  When done right should look something like this :

Saline flush right heart from Sinai EM Ultrasound on Vimeo.

So this is a neat trick after the catheter is in, but the horse is out of the barn at that point. Ideally you should confirm proper venous placement prior to dilating the vessel and placing the central line. You could do this while the needle is in the vessel, but that’s a bit unstable. Instead consider using the long angiocatheter found in most central line kits to puncture the internal jugular vein.

After the flash (and ultrasound confirmation of venous puncture) advance the catheter and remove the needle. You then have an angiocatheter in the central venous system, which can be used for manometry, blood gas analysis, or the saline push necessary for the bubble test. Some people have used this angiocatheter during ACLS situations to administer a few doses of code medications in a shorter time than it would take to complete a “full” central line.

Once proper venous placement is confirmed, you can advance the guide wire through the angiocatheter and continue the procedure as normal.

For a great overview of central venous catheterization, check out this post by Haru Okuda and Scott Weingart at EMCrit.org.

Further Reading

Prekker ME, Chang R, Cole JB, Reardon R.  “Rapid confirmation of central venous catheter placement using an ultrasonographic “Bubble Test.” Acad Emerg Med 2010;17(7):e85-6. (PMID: 20653578)