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Revista da Associação Médica Brasileira

Print version ISSN 0104-4230On-line version ISSN 1806-9282


BISINOTTO, Flora Margarida Barra et al. Qualitative and quantitative ultrasound assessment of gastric content. Rev. Assoc. Med. Bras. [online]. 2017, vol.63, n.2, pp.134-141. ISSN 0104-4230.


Pulmonary aspiration of the gastric contents is one of the most feared complications in anesthesia. Its prevention depends on preoperative fasting as well as identification of risky patients. A reliable diagnostic tool to assess gastric volume is currently lacking. The aim of this study performed on volunteers was to evaluate the feasibility of ultrasonography to identify qualitative and quantitative gastric content.


A standardized gastric scanning protocol was applied on 67 healthy volunteers to assess the gastric antrum in four different situations: fasting, after ingesting clear fluid, milk and a solid meal. A qualitative and quantitative assessment of the gastric content in the antrum was performed by a blinded sonographer. The antrum was considered either as empty, or containing clear or thick fluid, or solids. Total gastric volume was predicted based on a cross-sectional area of the antrum. A p-value less than 0.05 was considered statistically significant.


For each type of gastric content, the sonographic characteristics of the antrum and its content were described and illustrated. Sonographic qualitative assessment allowed to distinguish between an empty stomach and one with different kinds of meal. The predicted gastric volume was significantly larger after the consumption of any food source compared to fasting.


Bedside sonography can determine the nature of gastric content. It is also possible to estimate the difference between an empty gastric antrum and one that has some food in it. Such information may be useful to estimate the risk of aspiration, particularly in situations when prandial status is unknown or uncertain.

Keywords : gastric content; antral area; pulmonary aspiration; preoperative fasting; ultrasonography.

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