COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Lung ultrasound is an accurate diagnostic tool for the diagnosis of pneumonia in the emergency department

Francesca Cortellaro, Silvia Colombo, Daniele Coen, Pier Giorgio Duca
Emergency Medicine Journal: EMJ 2012, 29 (1): 19-23
21030550

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of bedside lung ultrasound and chest radiography (CXR) in patients with suspected pneumonia compared with CT scan and final diagnosis at discharge. Design A prospective clinical study.

METHODS: Lung ultrasound and CXR were performed in sequence in adult patients admitted to the emergency department (ED) for suspected pneumonia. A chest CT scan was performed during hospital stay when clinically indicated.

RESULTS: 120 patients entered the study. A discharge diagnosis of pneumonia was confirmed in 81 (67.5%). The first CXR was positive in 54/81 patients (sensitivity 67%; 95% CI 56.4% to 76.9%) and negative in 33/39 (specificity 85%; 95% CI 73.3% to 95.9%), whereas lung ultrasound was positive in 80/81 (sensitivity 98%; 95% CI 93.3% to 99.9%) and negative in 37/39 (specificity 95%; 95% CI 82.7% to 99.4%). A CT scan was performed in 30 patients (26 of which were positive for pneumonia); in this subgroup the first CXR was diagnostic for pneumonia in 18/26 cases (sensitivity 69%), whereas ultrasound was positive in 25/26 (sensitivity 96%). The feasibility of ultrasound was 100% and the examination was always performed in less than 5 min.

CONCLUSIONS: Bedside chest ultrasound is a reliable tool for the diagnosis of pneumonia in the ED, probably being superior to CXR in this setting. It is likely that its wider use will allow a faster diagnosis, conducive to a more appropriate and timely therapy.

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