Tricks of the Trade: Underwater ultrasonography

Jul 20, 11
Tricks of the Trade: Underwater ultrasonography

Basketweaving

I’ve heard of underwater basketweaving, but underwater ultrasonography?

Bedside ultrasonography is a great tool to help find small foreign bodies. Commonly foreign bodies get lodged superficially in the patient’s extremities. Because superficial structures (<1 cm deep) are difficult to visualize on ultrasound, you should apply a really generous, thick layer of ultrasound gel to create some distance. Alternatively, you can add a step-off pad, such as a bag of saline or fluid-filled glove, to place between the patient’s skin and transducer. What’s a quicker and easier way to create some distance yet preserve image quality?

Trick of the Trade

Submerse both the body part and the ultrasound transducer under water.

ultrasonography water bath

For this “bath water technique”, start by holding the transducer perpendicular to the wound and about 1 cm away from the skin. You can adjust the distance to optimize the image quality.

FB_Hand

FB_Hand2

Thanks to Andy at Emergency Medicine Ireland blog for these 2 ultrasound images! 

This submersion technique has been published in American Journal of EM in 2004 as a painless alternative to gel or a step-off pad, because the transducer does not need to apply any pressure on the patient’s wound.

Reference
Blaivas M, Lyon M, Brannam L, Duggal S, Sierzenski P. Water bath evaluation technique for emergency ultrasound of painful superficial structures. Amer J Emerg Med. 2004; 22(7), 589-93 PMID: 15666267

Author information

Michelle Lin, MD

ALiEM Founder and CEO
Professor and Digital Innovation Lab Director
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of California, San Francisco

The post Tricks of the Trade: Underwater ultrasonography appeared first on ALiEM.

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