Ultrasound of the pleurae and lungs

Ultrasound Med Biol. 2015 Feb;41(2):351-65. doi: 10.1016/j.ultrasmedbio.2014.10.002.


The value of ultrasound techniques in examination of the pleurae and lungs has been underestimated over recent decades. One explanation for this is the assumption that the ventilated lungs and the bones of the rib cage constitute impermeable obstacles to ultrasound. However, a variety of pathologies of the chest wall, pleurae and lungs result in altered tissue composition, providing substantially increased access and visibility for ultrasound examination. It is a great benefit that the pleurae and lungs can be non-invasively imaged repeatedly without discomfort or radiation exposure for the patient. Ultrasound is thus particularly valuable in follow-up of disease, differential diagnosis and detection of complications. Diagnostic and therapeutic interventions in patients with pathologic pleural and pulmonary findings can tolerably be performed under real-time ultrasound guidance. In this article, an updated overview is given presenting not only the benefits and indications, but also the limitations of pleural and pulmonary ultrasound.

Keywords: Atelectasis; Consolidations; Interstitial syndrome; Malignancies; Pleural effusion; Pneumonia; Pulmonary thrombembolism; Ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pleura / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pleural Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ultrasonography