Background: The aim of this prospective, multicenter study was to define the accuracy of lung ultrasound (LUS) in the diagnosis of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP).
Methods: Three hundred sixty-two patients with suspected CAP were enrolled in 14 European centers. At baseline, history, clinical examination, laboratory testing, and LUS were performed as well as the reference test, which was a radiograph in two planes or a low-dose CT scan in case of inconclusive or negative radiographic but positive LUS findings. In patients with CAP, follow-up between days 5 and 8 and 13 and 16 was scheduled.
Results: CAP was confirmed in 229 patients (63.3%). LUS revealed a sensitivity of 93.4% (95% CI, 89.2%-96.3%), specificity of 97.7% (95% CI, 93.4%-99.6%), and likelihood ratios (LRs) of 40.5 (95% CI, 13.2-123.9) for positive and 0.07 (95% CI, 0.04-0.11) for negative results. A combination of auscultation and LUS increased the positive LR to 42.9 (95% CI, 10.8-170.0) and decreased the negative LR to 0.04 (95% CI, 0.02-0.09). We found 97.6% (205 of 211) of patients with CAP showed breath-dependent motion of infiltrates, 86.7% (183 of 211) an air bronchogram, 76.5% (156 of 204) blurred margins, and 54.4% (105 of 193) a basal pleural effusion. During follow-up, median C-reactive protein levels decreased from 137 mg/dL to 6.3 mg/dL at days 13 to 16 as did signs of CAP; median area of lesions decreased from 15.3 cm2 to 0.2 cm2 and pleural effusion from 50 mL to 0 mL.
Conclusions: LUS is a noninvasive, usually available tool used for high-accuracy diagnosis of CAP. This is especially important if radiography is not available or applicable. About 8% of pneumonic lesions are not detectable by LUS; therefore, an inconspicuous LUS does not exclude pneumonia.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00808457.