Effect of bedside ultrasound on management of pediatric soft-tissue infection

J Emerg Med. 2010 Nov;39(5):637-43. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2009.05.013. Epub 2009 Aug 8.


Background: Superficial soft-tissue infections (SSTI) are frequently managed in the emergency department (ED). Soft-tissue bedside ultrasound (BUS) for SSTI has not been specifically studied in the pediatric ED setting.

Objective: To evaluate the effect of a soft-tissue BUS evaluation on the clinical diagnosis and management of pediatric superficial soft-tissue infection.

Methods: We conducted a prospective observational study in two urban academic pediatric EDs. Eligible patients were aged < 18 years presenting with suspected SSTI. Before BUS, treating physicians were asked to assess the likelihood of subcutaneous fluid collection and whether further treatment would require medical management or invasive management. A trained emergency physician then performed a BUS of the lesion(s). A post-test questionnaire assessed whether the physician changed the initial management plan based on the results of the BUS.

Results: BUS changed management in 11/50 cases. After initial clinical assessment, 20 patients were designated to receive invasive management, whereas the remaining 30 patients were designated to receive medical management. Management changed in 6/20 in the invasive group. In the medical group, 5/30 patients changed management. BUS had a sensitivity of 90% (95% confidence interval [CI] 77-100%) and specificity of 83% (05% CI 70-97%), whereas clinical suspicion had a sensitivity of 75% (95% CI 56-94%) and specificity of 80% (95% CI 66-94%) in detecting fluid collections requiring drainage.

Conclusions: BUS evaluation of pediatric SSTI may be a useful clinical adjunct for the emergency physician. It changed management in 22% of cases by detecting subclinical abscesses or avoiding unnecessary invasive procedures.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Boston
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Hospitals, University
  • Hospitals, Urban
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Point-of-Care Systems*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rhode Island
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Soft Tissue Infections / diagnostic imaging*
  • Soft Tissue Infections / therapy*
  • Ultrasonography
  • Young Adult