Thoracic ultrasonography: a narrative review

Intensive Care Med. 2019 Sep;45(9):1200-1211. doi: 10.1007/s00134-019-05725-8. Epub 2019 Aug 15.


This narrative review focuses on thoracic ultrasonography (lung and pleural) with the aim of outlining its utility for the critical care clinician. The article summarizes the applications of thoracic ultrasonography for the evaluation and management of pneumothorax, pleural effusion, acute dyspnea, pulmonary edema, pulmonary embolism, pneumonia, interstitial processes, and the patient on mechanical ventilatory support. Mastery of lung and pleural ultrasonography allows the intensivist to rapidly diagnose and guide the management of a wide variety of disease processes that are common features of critical illness. Its ease of use, rapidity, repeatability, and reliability make thoracic ultrasonography the "go to" modality for imaging the lung and pleura in an efficient, cost effective, and safe manner, such that it can largely replace chest imaging in critical care practice. It is best used in conjunction with other components of critical care ultrasonography to yield a comprehensive evaluation of the critically ill patient at point of care.

Keywords: Critical care ultrasonography; Lung ultrasonography; Pleural ultrasonography; Ultrasonography.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Critical Care / methods
  • Humans
  • Pleural Effusion / diagnosis
  • Pleural Effusion / diagnostic imaging
  • Pneumonia / diagnosis
  • Pneumonia / diagnostic imaging
  • Pneumothorax / diagnosis
  • Pneumothorax / diagnostic imaging
  • Pulmonary Edema / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Edema / diagnostic imaging
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnostic imaging
  • Thoracic Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Thoracic Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Thoracic Diseases / physiopathology
  • Ultrasonography / methods*