Ultrasound detection of pneumothorax compared with chest X-ray and computed tomography scan

Am Surg. 2011 Apr;77(4):480-4.


Pneumothorax after trauma can be a life threatening injury and its care requires expeditious and accurate diagnosis and possible intervention. We performed a prospective, single blinded study with convenience sampling at a Level I trauma center comparing thoracic ultrasound with chest X-ray and CT scan in the detection of traumatic pneumothorax. Trauma patients that received a thoracic ultrasound, chest X-ray, and chest CT scan were included in the study. The chest X-rays were read by a radiologist who was blinded to the thoracic ultrasound results. Then both were compared with CT scan results. One hundred and twenty-five patients had a thoracic ultrasound performed in the 24-month period. Forty-six patients were excluded from the study due to lack of either a chest X-ray or chest CT scan. Of the remaining 79 patients there were 22 positive pneumothorax found by CT and of those 18 (82%) were found on ultrasound and 7 (32%) were found on chest X-ray. The sensitivity of thoracic ultrasound was found to be 81.8 per cent and the specificity was found to be 100 per cent. The sensitivity of chest X-ray was found to be 31.8 per cent and again the specificity was found to be 100 per cent. The negative predictive value of thoracic ultrasound for pneumothorax was 0.934 and the negative predictive value for chest X-ray for pneumothorax was found to be 0.792. We advocate the use of chest ultrasound for detection of pneumothorax in trauma patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumothorax / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pneumothorax / etiology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Trauma Centers
  • Ultrasonography
  • Wounds and Injuries / complications*