Ultrasound for patients in a high HIV/tuberculosis prevalence setting: a needs assessment and review of focused applications for Sub-Saharan Africa

Int J Infect Dis. 2017 Mar:56:229-236. doi: 10.1016/j.ijid.2016.11.001. Epub 2016 Nov 9.


Ultrasound is increasingly used in point-of-care applications and has great potential to support the diagnosis of infectious diseases, especially in resource-limited settings. A cross-sectional study was performed involving 100 Malawian patients with a clinical indication for ultrasound. Furthermore, the literature on point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) in Sub-Saharan Africa was reviewed to establish its applicability, most frequent indications, findings, and implications for treatment, and therefore relevance in POCUS curricula, with a main focus on infectious diseases. In Malawi, the main indications for ultrasound were weight loss, abdominal pain, and shortness of breath. Abnormal findings were observed in 77% of patients, the most common being enlarged abdominal lymph nodes (n=17), pericardial effusion (n=15), splenic microabscesses (n=15), and pleural effusion (n=14). POCUS led to a change in treatment in 72% of patients. The literature on the various POCUS applications used in Malawi was reviewed, including focused assessment with sonography for HIV-associated TB (FASH), heart, liver, kidney, deep venous thrombosis (DVT), and gynaecology. Based on disease prevalence, impact of POCUS on treatment, and technical difficulty, it is proposed that FASH, heart, and DVT are the most relevant POCUS applications in comparable Sub-Saharan African settings and should be incorporated in POCUS curricula.

Keywords: FASH; HIV; Point-of-care; TB; Ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara / epidemiology
  • Africa, Northern
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Malawi
  • Needs Assessment*
  • Point-of-Care Systems
  • Prevalence
  • Tuberculosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tuberculosis / epidemiology
  • Ultrasonography*