Diagnostic value of chest ultrasound after cardiac surgery: a comparison with chest X-ray and auscultation

J Cardiothorac Vasc Anesth. 2014 Dec;28(6):1527-32. doi: 10.1053/j.jvca.2014.04.012. Epub 2014 Sep 26.


Objective: Chest auscultation and chest x-ray commonly are used to detect postoperative abnormalities and complications in patients admitted to intensive care after cardiac surgery. The aim of the study was to evaluate whether chest ultrasound represents an effective alternative to bedside chest x-ray to identify early postoperative abnormalities.

Design: Diagnostic accuracy of chest auscultation and chest ultrasound were compared in identifying individual abnormalities detected by chest x-ray, considered the reference method.

Setting: Cardiac surgery intensive care unit.

Participants: One hundred fifty-one consecutive adult patients undergoing cardiac surgery.

Interventions: All patients included were studied by chest auscultation, ultrasound, and x-ray upon admission to intensive care after cardiac surgery.

Measurements and main results: Six lung pathologic changes and endotracheal tube malposition were found. There was a highly significant correlation between abnormalities detected by chest ultrasound and x-ray (k = 0.90), but a poor correlation between chest auscultation and x-ray abnormalities (k = 0.15).

Conclusions: Chest auscultation may help identify endotracheal tube misplacement and tension pneumothorax but it may miss most major abnormalities. Chest ultrasound represents a valid alternative to chest x-ray to detect most postoperative abnormalities and misplacements.

Keywords: critical care; daily on-demand chest radiography; lung ultrasonography; postoperative complications.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Auscultation / methods*
  • Auscultation / standards
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures*
  • Critical Care / methods
  • Equipment Failure Analysis / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / methods
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis*
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnostic imaging*
  • Radiography, Thoracic / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Ultrasonography