3. RUSH Exam protocol

Step 5: Pulmonary

For the last step of the RUSH exam, we look at the lungs or pulmonary system as a cause of hypotension/shock. Although we may have already identified pleural effusion or hemothorax on our RUQ/LUQ exam, this part of the lung exam will evaluate for a potential tension pneumothorax.


Here are three important steps to evaluating for pneumothorax:

First, if lung sliding is present, you can rule out pneumothorax with 100% accuracy at that ultrasound point (Husain LF).

Remember that presence of lung sliding only rules out pneumothorax at that specific point you are scanning. Make sure to maximize your sensitivity by scanning multiple points on the chest.

You can look for lung sliding with B-mode or M-mode:

Ultrasound Lung Sliding with Linear Probe
Normal Lung Sliding (B-mode)
Lung ultrasound Seashore Sign - Sky, Ocean, Beach
Normal Lung Sliding with Seashore sign (M-mode)

Second, if lung sliding is ABSENT, you should not automatically assume pneumothorax.

Recall other causes of reduced/absent lung sliding: severe consolidation, chemical pleurodesis, acute infectious or inflammatory states, fibrotic lung diseases, acute respiratory distress syndrome, or mainstem intubation.

Absent Lung Sliding Ultrasound
Absence of Lung Sliding (B-mode)
Stratosphere and Bar Code Sign Lung Ultrasound Pneumothorax
Absence of Lung Sliding – Barcode Sign (M-Mode)

Third, if a lung point is present, you can rule in pneumothorax with 100% accuracy (Chan S).

To confirm the presence of a pneumothorax, you should look for the “Lung Point Sign.

The lung point is when you can see the transition between normal lung sliding and the absence of lung sliding. This is the transition point between the collapsed lung and normal lung. If you see this you can definitively rule in a pneumothorax. The Lung point sign also helps you quantify how large a pneumothorax is.

If you think you may have found a lung point but are not sure, use M-Mode and place your cursor at the intersection where you think lung sliding starts and stops. If you see a normal seashore sign that turns into an abnormal barcode sign, then you have located the lung point with M-Mode.

Lung Point - Ultrasound Pneumothorax
Lung Point Sign (B-mode)
Lung Point - Ultrasound Pneumothorax M-Mode
Lung Point Sign (M-mode)
3. RUSH Exam protocol

Step 4: Aorta

The next step is to evaluate for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) or Aortic Dissection as sources of hypotension in the RUSH Exam.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)

A ruptured abdominal AAA can lead to severe hypotension, especially in elderly patients presenting with acute abdominal pain. A ruptured AAA has a very high mortality.

A normal aorta is usually ~2.0cm in diameter. An abdominal aortic aneurysm is defined as: (Mokashi)

  • ≥ 3cm diameter for the abdominal aorta or a > 50% increase in the aortic diameter.
  • ≥ 1.5cm diameter for the iliac arteries.
  • Anytime a patient presents with a AAA of >/= 5cm and hypotension, assume a rupture until proven otherwise.
  • Be sure to measure Outer wall to Outer wall for accurate aorta measurements.
Fusiform Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm AAA
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm with Mural Thrombus

Aortic Dissection

Aortic dissections also have a very high mortality rate. The difficulty with diagnosing aortic dissections is that clinically, they can present with a wide array of symptoms including chest pain, abdominal pain, back pain, stroke-like symptoms, or even just generalized malaise.

Transthoracic Echocardiography (TTE) can be used to try to detect dissections and are specific but not very sensitive.

If there is a high clinical suspicion for aortic dissection and the TTE is negative, you may need to proceed with Transesophageal Echocardiography (TEE) or a CT angiogram (it patient is stable enough).

An aortic dissection may present as a free flap in the aortic lumen of either the descending abdominal aorta, ascending aorta, and/or the aortic arch. Aortic dissections in the ascending aorta can also cause aortic regurgitation and a diastolic murmur. Below are some examples of aortic dissections in multiple different views.

Aortic Dissection Parasternal Long Axis
Aortic Dissection in the ascending aorta, seen as a longitudinal intimal flap just distal to the aortic valve in the PSLA View.
Aortic Dissection Ascending Aorta Suprasternal Notch Ultrasound
Aortic Dissection seen in the aortic arch using the Suprasternal View
Aortic Dissection Descending Abdominal Aorta
Aortic Dissection with intimal flap seen in a long-axis view of the descending aorta.
Aortic Dissection Aortic Regurgitation Ultrasound
Aortic regurgitation, seen as retrograde diastolic blood flow in the aortic arch.
3. RUSH Exam protocol

Step 3: Morison’s Pouch/eFAST Exam

The “M” in HIMAP of the RUSH Exam stand’s for Morison’s Pouch but essentially you will be performing an eFAST scan of the RUQ, LUQ, and pelvic views. We are looking for a leak into the abdomen (hemoperitoneum) or thorax (hemothorax) as the source of the patient’s hypotension.


Right Upper Quadrant (RUQ) – Hemoperitoneum

The three common locations for free fluid to accumulate in the RUQ of the eFAST scan are the:

  • Hepatorenal Space or “Morison’s Pouch”
  • Caudal Tip of the Liver
  • Suprahepatic Space
eFAST RUQ Morison’s Pouch
RUQ Positive eFAST Fast Ultrasound Scan Morison's Pouch and Liver Tip Caudal
Free Fluid at the Caudal Tip of the Liver
RUQ Positive eFAST Fast Ultrasound Scan Morison's Pouch
Free Fluid in Morrison’s Pouch and Suprahepatic Space
Left Upper Quadrant (LUQ) – Hemoperitoneum

We will evaluate the LUQ in the eFAST for free fluid in the following places:

  • Perisplenic Space
  • Spleen Tip
  • Splenorenal Recess

TIP: It is important to note that in the LUQ the most common area to find fluid is in the perisplenic space, NOT between the spleen and the left kidney. This is because there is a splenorenal ligament that attaches the spleen and the left kidney preventing a significant amount of fluid to accumulate there unless the ligament is ruptured.

Splenorenal Left Upper Quadrant LUQ Perisplenic Free Fluid Ultrasound eFAST exam
Free fluid in Perisplenic Space

Male Pelvis – Hemoperitoneum

In the male pelvis, you can find free fluid in the rectovesical pouch/space.

Free Fluid Male Pelvis Abdominal eFAST Ultrasound
Male – Abdominal Free Fluid in Pelvis (Rectovesical Pouch)

Female Pelvis – Hemoperitoneum

In the female pelvis, you can find free fluid in the Pouch of Douglas (Rectouterine Pouch).

Female Pelvis Rectovesical Pouch
Free Fluid Female Pelvis Abdominal eFAST Ultrasound
Female – Abdominal Free Fluid in Pelvis (Pouch of Douglas)


After evaluating the RUQ or LUQ, move the probe superiorly one or two rib spaces to evaluate the thorax for fluid accumulation.

A normal lung will have a Mirror Image Artifact and you will be unable to see the spine going above the diaphragm since all of the ultrasound waves will be reflected back by the aerated lung.

Visualizing the patient’s spine above the diaphragm implies that there is free fluid (e.g. blood) in the thorax since ultrasound waves can easily pass through the free fluid in the chest cavity, allowing you to see the spine. This is referred to as a Positive Spine Sign.

Mirror Image Artifact - Liver, Diaphragm, Lung
Absence of Spine above Diaphragm: Normal Finding.
Spine Sign Ultrasound Pleural Effusion Consolidation
Presence of Spine above Diaphragm: Pathologic Finding.
3. RUSH Exam protocol

Step 2: IVC

The next part of the RUSH Exam, we look at the Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) to assess the patient’s central venous pressure (or right atrial pressure). Is there a leak somewhere causing hypotension? Is there fluid overload that is causing the heart to not pump adequately?  In the context of shock, we also want to know whether CVP is high or low. This will further categorize the likely type of shock.

The IVC measurement is mostly used to assess fluid tolerance rather than fluid responsiveness. Using the IVC collapsibility Index (below), the diameter and collapsibility during inspiration or with a sniff test can be used to estimate CVP. Limitations include body habitus, increased intraabdominal pressure, etc.

IVC Diameter (cm)Percent Collapsible (%)Estimated CVP (mmHg)

Adapted from Kircher et al.

Dilated Non-Collapsible IVC Long axis cardiac ultrasound echocardiography
Dilated and Noncollapsible IVC – Suggesting HIGH CVP
Collapsible IVC Long Axis cardiac ultrasound echocardiography
Small and Collapsible IVC – Suggesting LOW CVP
  • A high CVP suggested by a dilated and noncollapsible IVC may hint towards an obstructive or cardiogenic etiology.
  • A low CVP suggested by a small and collapsible IVC may hint towards a distributive or hypovolemic etiology.

Once again here is an easy way to integrate LV ejection fraction, Cardiac Output, and IVC measurements:

Type of ShockLV Ejection FractionCardiac OutputIVC
3. RUSH Exam protocol

Step-By-Step RUSH Exam protocol

Step 1: Heart

First, we look at the heart. In the setting of hypotension, we want to know how well the heart is squeezing and ejecting. Is the heart the problem or is it trying to compensate for a problem somewhere else? The primary pathologies to assess are systolic heart failure, pericardial effusion & tamponade, and right ventricular strain for pulmonary embolism.

There are four primary cardiac views including the Parasternal Long Axis View, Parasternal Short Axis View, Apical 4 Chamber view, and Subxiphoid View. It is important to learn all of these views since the body habitus between patients can vary greatly.

Note: Remember, using the eFAST or abdominal preset will have the orientation marker on the left side of the screen instead of the right side like in the cardiac preset. This will require you to flip your probe indicator 180 degrees on your probe to obtain the appropriate cardiac views.

Ejection Fraction Assessment

  • Observe the left ventricle throughout the cardiac cycle. Is it hyperdynamic or hypodynamic? Does it squeeze uniformly? 
  • Next, note the anterior leaflet of the mitral valve. Does it move freely and approach the interventricular septum with each diastolic filling? If not, the heart’s contractile function may be impaired and the patient may be experiencing an exacerbation of systolic heart failure resulting in hypotension.
  • If the heart appears hyperdynamic, the source of hypotension may be related to hypovolemia or sepsis. This can be determined by continuing to evaluate the patient using the rest of the RUSH exam.  

Here are cardiac ultrasound (echo) images of patients with different degrees of ejection fraction from hyperdynamic to severely reduced:

Hyperdynamic LV Left Ventricle Ejection Fraction Function Cardiac Ultrasound Echocardiography
Hyperdynamic Ejection Fraction (>70%)
Normal LV Left Ventricle Ejection Fraction Function Cardiac Ultrasound Echocardiography Parasternal Long Axis
Normal Ejection Fraction (55-69%)
Mild Decreased LV Left Ventricle Ejection Fraction Function Cardiac Ultrasound Echocardiography
Mildly Reduced Ejection Fraction (45-54%)
Moderate Decreased LV Left Ventricle Ejection Fraction Function Cardiac Ultrasound Echocardiography POCUS
Moderately Reduced Ejection Fraction (30-44%)
Severe Severely Decreased LV Left Ventricle Ejection Fraction Function Cardiac Ultrasound Echocardiography
Severely Reduced Ejection Fraction (<30%)

Right Ventricular Strain – Pulmonary Embolism

  • The RV chamber normally size should be about ⅔ the size of the LV chamber. If you notice an increase in this ratio, or bowing of the interventricular septum towards the left side of the heart, this may indicate RV strain (i.e. the right heart is having trouble ejecting, so as pressure builds the RV chamber enlarges and encroaches on the LV).
  • Look out for McConnell’s Sign which is hypokinesis of the right ventricular free wall with sparing of the Apex.
  • You can also look for the “D Sign” on the parasternal short axis view and occurs when the increased pressure of the RV pushes the interventricular septum into the LV.
McConnell's Sign
RV Strain with McConnell’s Sign
RV Pressure Overload D Sign
“D Sign”
  • Note that the presence of any of the above-mentioned findings is suggestive of RV strain and not specific to PE
  • If any evidence of right heart strain is found, the exam should proceed directly to the evaluation of the legs to scan for a possible deep vein thrombosis by looking for a noncompressible vein. Findings of DVT in the setting of RV strain will greatly increase the chances the patient has a significant pulmonary embolism.
Download the DVT Ultrasound Pocket Card!

Pericardial Effusion and Tamponade

  • Pericardial effusion with Tamponade is another cardiac pathology you should screen for in the RUSH Protocol.
  • Look at the border of the heart. Is there a significant anechoic border surrounding it? If so, a pericardial effusion is likely. 
  • Be sure to distinguish a pericardial effusion  from a pleural effusion by identifying the location of the fluid with help from the descending aorta. Anechoic fluid anterior to the descending aorta is a pericardial effusion, whereas fluid posterior to the descending aorta is a pleural effusion. 
Pericardial Effusion and Pleural Effusion Cardiac Ultrasound Echocardiography
Pericardial Effusion – PSLA View
Pericardial Effusion eFAST FAST scan ultrasound
Pericardial Effusion -Subxiphoid View
  • Note that a pericardial fat pad can mimic a pleural effusion so it is important to distinguish between the two. Fat is usually more anterior, less mobile, and more echogenic than the fluid of an effusion.
Pericardial Fat Pad Cardiac Ultrasound Echocardiography POCUS
Pericardial Fat Pad
  • A pericardial effusion can lead to cardiac tamponade when the pressure from the effusion becomes high enough to impair cardiac filling of the right ventricle. It is important to remember that it is not the absolute size of the pericardial effusion but the rate of fluid accmulation that poses the greatest risk for cardiac tamponade.
  • To distinguish between an effusion and tamponade on the RUSH Exam look for two signs: right atrial systolic collapse and right ventricular diastolic collapse. 
    • These are difficult to capture in real time, so freeze your image and scroll through the frame at a slower rate to determine when systole and diastole are occurring.
    • Right atrial collapse is the earliest and the most sensitive finding. 
    • Right ventricular diastolic collapse is a later and more specific finding.
Pericardial Effusion with Tamponade and RA systolic collapse
Pericardial Effusion with Tamponade – RA Systolic Collapse
Pericardial Effusion Tamponade - RV Diastolic Collapse
Cardiac Tamponade – RV Diastolic Collapse

Cardiac Output Assesment

You can also measure the patient’s cardiac output during the RUSH Exam to help determine the type of Shock a patient is in.

This is a more advanced technique and can be done by measuring the Left Ventricular Outflow Tract Diameter and the Velocity Time Integral (VTI) to calculate the cardiac output.

Measuring the cardiac output helps you differentiate the different types of shock, especially when you combine it with ejection fraction and IVC Measurements as you can see below:

Type of ShockLV Ejection FractionCardiac OutputIVC