JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

[Utility of the lung ultrasound in the intensive medicine unit]

M Colmenero, M García-Delgado, I Navarrete, G López-Milena
Medicina Intensiva 2010, 34 (9): 620-8
20483507
The radiological diagnostic approach of the thorax in the critically ill patient has traditionally been based on the anteroposterior chest X-ray. However, it is generally accepted that it has important limitations regarding its diagnostic accuracy of pleuro-pulmonary disease. The introduction of computed tomography largely solved this problem, but with the dual disadvantage of a larger radiation dose and the unavoidable transportation outside of the ICU. In this context, the lung ultrasound has become an alternative technique, with the advantage that due to its portability, it is done at the patient's bedside. In the lung ultrasound, the ribs, spine and air in the thorax act as barriers to the ultrasounds, causing artifacts that must be recognized and interpreted for a correct diagnosis. However, intrathoracic diseases, existence of fluid in the pleural space and consolidation, or atelectasis in the lung provide a sufficient ultrasound window for the correct evaluation. In this review, we explain the lung and pleural ultrasound technique, define the normal pattern and the artifacts that serve to detect the abnormalities and we explain the criteria for the main diseases (consolidation, pleural effusion, pulmonary edema and pneumothorax). We also discuss the possible utility and limitations of the lung ultrasound in our daily practice, such as diagnosis of acute respiratory failure, detection, quantification and drainage of a pleural effusion, chest trauma, management and complications of acute respiratory distress syndrome and tracheal intubation success or failure.

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