Thoracic ultrasound prior to medical thoracoscopy improves pleural access and predicts fibrous septation

Andrew R L Medford, Sanjay Agrawal, Jonathan A Bennett, Catherine M Free, James J Entwisle
Respirology: Official Journal of the Asian Pacific Society of Respirology 2010, 15 (5): 804-8

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: Medical thoracoscopy (MT) is indicated for the investigation of unexplained pleural exudates. Not all MT units create artificial pneumothoraces because of time. Difficult pleural space access and thick fibrous adhesions may prevent MT and pleurodesis, respectively. The potential role of thoracic ultrasound (TUS) pre-MT has not been fully evaluated. We hypothesized TUS would reduce failure to access the pleural space and enable detection of thick fibrous adhesions.

METHODS: Thirty patients underwent single port MT consecutively for investigation of pleural exudates without pre-MT TUS over a 6-month period. Over the following 6 months, 30 consecutive patients underwent TUS immediately prior to MT. Pleural access rate and thick fibrous adhesion detection at both MT and TUS were recorded.

RESULTS: In the non-TUS cohort, pleural space access failure occurred in 16.7% (leading to five extra procedures), versus no failures in the TUS cohort (P = 0.0522). There were no differences in prevalence of MT fibrous adhesions between cohorts. TUS identified all cases of fibrous septation versus only 12.5% identified by CT in the non-TUS cohort (P = 0.001). All identified cases of thick fibrous septation on TUS did not receive pleurodesis at MT. TUS detected useful ancillary features in 43% of cases.

CONCLUSIONS: A strong trend to reduction in single port MT pleural access failure was noted with pre-MT TUS thus reducing extra procedures and the need for artificial pneumothoraces. Pre-MT TUS also reliably detects thick fibrous adhesions at MT. TUS may also detect useful ancillary features. This study provides a rationale for ultrasound-guided single port MT if a pneumothorax is not created.

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