JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Diagnostic accuracy, safety and utilisation of respiratory physician-delivered thoracic ultrasound

Najib M Rahman, Aran Singanayagam, Helen E Davies, John M Wrightson, Eleanor K Mishra, Y C Gary Lee, Rachel Benamore, Robert J O Davies, Fergus V Gleeson
Thorax 2010, 65 (5): 449-53
20435870
BACKGROUND Thoracic ultrasound-guided pleural procedures are associated with fewer adverse events than 'blind' procedures for patients with pleural effusion. Ultrasound is increasingly practised by respiratory physicians but there has been no prospective assessment of its safety and diagnostic accuracy when delivered by respiratory physicians. METHODS The activity level, safety and diagnostic accuracy of thoracic ultrasound delivered by respiratory physicians were prospectively assessed. Diagnostic accuracy was assessed using a stepwise pragmatic approach (recording if pleural fluid was obtained or effusion was present on another radiological modality). In the absence of the above, ultrasound clips were reviewed by a blinded radiologist. The number of ultrasounds referred to radiologists and adverse events within 1 week were recorded. The complication rate was compared with the published literature. RESULTS 960 ultrasound scans occurred over a 3 year period. The activity of the service increased over time, as a result of increased use of interventional ultrasound. The referral rate to radiology remained constant over the study period (mean proportion 4.0%). Physician-delivered ultrasound correctly identified the presence/absence of pleural fluid in 951 of 955 evaluable scans (99.6% CI 98.9% to 99.9%). The major complication rate was 3/558=0.5% (95% CI 0.1% to 1.6%), which compared favourably with the identified published literature. CONCLUSION Respiratory physician-delivered thoracic ultrasound appears to be safe and effective in the diagnosis/intervention of pleural effusion, and is associated with a major complication rate comparable with that of published studies. Continued liaison with the radiology service has here been demonstrated as a requirement for a physician-based service.

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