Comparing posteroanterior with lateral and anteroposterior chest radiography in the initial detection of parapneumonic effusions

Am J Emerg Med. 2016 Dec;34(12):2402-2407. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2016.09.021. Epub 2016 Sep 14.


Background: It is unclear whether anteroposterior (AP) or posteroanterior with lateral (PA/Lat) chest radiographs are superior in the early detection of clinically relevant parapneumonic effusions (CR-PPEs). The objective of this study was to identify which technique is preferred for detection of PPEs using chest computed tomography (CCT) as a reference standard.

Methods: A secondary analysis of a pneumonia database was conducted to identify patients who received a CCT within 24 hours of presentation and also received AP or PA/Lat chest radiographs within 24 hours of CCT. Sensitivity and specificity were then calculated by comparing the radiographic diagnosis of PPEs of both types of radiographs compared with CCT by using the existing attending radiologist interpretation. Clinical relevance of effusions was determined by CCT effusion measurement of >2.5 cm or presence of loculation.

Results: There was a statistically significant difference between the sensitivity of AP (67.3%) and PA/Lat (83.9%) chest radiography for the initial detection of CR-PPE. Of 16 CR-PPEs initially missed by AP radiography, 7 either required drainage initially or developed empyema within 30 days, whereas no complicated PPE or empyema was found in those missed by PA/Lat radiography.

Conclusions: PA/Lat chest radiography should be the initial imaging of choice in pneumonia patients for detection of PPEs because it appears to be statistically superior to AP chest radiography.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Databases, Factual
  • Drainage
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pleural Effusion / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pneumonia / complications*
  • Radiography, Thoracic / methods*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Thorax / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed