The use of point-of-care bedside lung ultrasound significantly reduces the number of radiographs and computed tomography scans in critically ill patients

Adriano Peris, Lorenzo Tutino, Giovanni Zagli, Stefano Batacchi, Giovanni Cianchi, Rosario Spina, Manuela Bonizzoli, Luisa Migliaccio, Lucia Perretta, Marco Bartolini, Kevin Ban, Martin Balik
Anesthesia and Analgesia 2010, 111 (3): 687-92

BACKGROUND: Chest radiography has been reported to have low diagnostic accuracy in critically ill intensive care unit (ICU) patients, and chest computed tomography (CT) scans require patients to be transported out of the ICU, putting them at risk of adverse events. In this study we assessed the efficacy of routine bedside lung ultrasound (LUS) in the evaluation of pleural effusions (PE) in the ICU.

METHODS: Three hundred seventy-six patients admitted to the ICU for major trauma (46.3%), medical pathology (41.5%), and postsurgical complications (12.2%) (May 2008 to April 2009) were included in this study. Patients were placed into either the control group (group C) or the study group (group S), on the basis of the introduction of routine LUS performed by a single group of intensivists in 1 tertiary care ICU. To reduce provider bias, the physicians conducting the LUS were not aware of the study. Collected data included patient demographics, clinical course, and number of chest radiographs and CT scans performed. As a secondary goal, we assessed the reliability of Balik's formula in PE estimation.

RESULTS: No significant differences were found between the 2 groups with regard to their demographics and ICU clinical course. Group S had a significant reduction in the total number of chest radiographs obtained (-26%; P < 0.001) and CT scans (-47%; P < 0.001) in comparison with the comparison group C. A 6-month follow-up analysis of the ICU LUS protocol revealed a time-dependent decrease in the number of radiological examinations requested for patients with PE. Lastly, PE volume estimation using the LUS and Balik's formula correlates well with the effective volume drained (r = 0.65; P < 0.0001).

CONCLUSIONS: Routine use of LUS in the ICU setting can be associated with a reduction of the number of chest radiographs and CT scans performed.

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