Purpose: To compare the diagnostic performance of lung ultrasound and bedside chest radiography (CXR) for the detection of various pathologic abnormalities in unselected critically ill patients, using thoracic computed tomography (CT) as a gold standard.
Methods: Forty-two mechanically ventilated patients scheduled for CT were prospectively studied with a modified lung ultrasound protocol. Four pathologic entities were evaluated: consolidation, interstitial syndrome, pneumothorax, and pleural effusion. Each hemithorax was evaluated for the presence or absence of each abnormality.
Results: Eighty-four hemithoraces were evaluated by the three imaging techniques. The sensitivity, specificity, and diagnostic accuracy of CXR were 38, 89, and 49% for consolidation, 46, 80, and 58% for interstitial syndrome, 0, 99, and 89% for pneumothorax, and 65, 81, and 69% for pleural effusion, respectively. The corresponding values for lung ultrasound were 100, 78, and 95% for consolidation, 94, 93, and 94% for interstitial syndrome, 75, 93, and 92% for pneumothorax, and 100, 100, and 100% for pleural effusion, respectively. The relatively low sensitivity of lung ultrasound for pneumothorax could be due to small number of cases (n = 8) and/or suboptimal methodology.
Conclusions: In our unselected general ICU population lung ultrasound has a considerably better diagnostic performance than CXR for the diagnosis of common pathologic conditions and may be used as an alternative to thoracic CT.