Lung Ultrasound for Diagnosing Pneumothorax in the Critically Ill Neonate

J Pediatr. 2016 Aug;175:74-78.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2016.04.018. Epub 2016 May 14.


Objectives: To evaluate the accuracy of lung ultrasound for the diagnosis of pneumothorax in the sudden decompensating patient.

Study design: In an international, prospective study, sudden decompensation was defined as a prolonged significant desaturation (oxygen saturation <65% for more than 40 seconds) and bradycardia or sudden increase of oxygen requirement by at least 50% in less than 10 minutes with a final fraction of inspired oxygen ≥0.7 to keep stable saturations. All eligible patients had an ultrasound scan before undergoing a chest radiograph, which was the reference standard.

Results: Forty-two infants (birth weight = 1531 ± 812 g; gestational age = 31 ± 3.5 weeks) were enrolled in 6 centers; pneumothorax was detected in 26 (62%). Lung ultrasound accuracy in diagnosing pneumothorax was as follows: sensitivity 100%, specificity 100%, positive predictive value 100%, and negative predictive value 100%. Clinical evaluation of pneumothorax showed sensitivity 84%, specificity 56%, positive predictive value 76%, and negative predictive value 69%. After sudden decompensation, a lung ultrasound scan was performed in an average time of 5.3 ± 5.6 minutes vs 19 ± 11.7 minutes required for a chest radiography. Emergency drainage was performed after an ultrasound scan but before radiography in 9 cases.

Conclusions: Lung ultrasound shows high accuracy in detecting pneumothorax in the critical infant, outperforming clinical evaluation and reducing time to imaging diagnosis and drainage.

Keywords: lung ultrasound; neonate; pneumothorax.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Critical Illness
  • Drainage
  • Emergencies
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pneumothorax / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pneumothorax / therapy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radiography, Thoracic
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Ultrasonography