Thoracic ultrasound influences physiotherapist's clinical decision-making in respiratory management of critical care patients: a multicentre cohort study

Thorax. 2023 Feb;78(2):169-175. doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2021-218217. Epub 2022 Mar 23.


Background: The potential influence of thoracic ultrasound on clinical decision-making by physiotherapists has never been studied. The aim of this study was to assess the impact of thoracic ultrasound on clinical decision-making by physiotherapists for critical care patients.

Methods: This prospective, observational multicentre study was conducted between May 2017 and November 2020 in four intensive care units in France and Australia. All hypoxemic patients consecutively admitted were enrolled. The primary outcome was the net reclassification improvement (NRI), quantifying how well the new model (physiotherapist's clinical decision-making including thoracic ultrasound) reclassifies subjects as compared with an old model (clinical assessment). Secondary outcomes were the factors associated with diagnostic concordance and physiotherapy treatment modification.

Results: A total of 151 patients were included in the analysis. The NRI for the modification of physiotherapist's clinical decisions was-40% (95% CI (-56 to -22%), p=0.02). Among the cases in which treatment was changed after ultrasound, 41% of changes were major (n=38). Using a multivariate analysis, the physiotherapist's confidence in their clinical diagnosis was associated with diagnostic concordance (adjusted OR=3.28 95% CI (1.30 to 8.71); p=0.014). Clinical diagnosis involving non-parenchymal conditions and clinical signs reflecting abolished lung ventilation were associated with diagnostic discordance (adjusted OR=0.06 95% CI (0.01 to 0.26), p<0.001; adjusted OR=0.26 95% CI (0.09 to 0.69), p=0.008; respectively).

Conclusion: Thoracic ultrasound has a high impact on the clinical decision-making process by physiotherapists for critical care patients.

Trial registration number: NCT02881814;

Keywords: critical care; imaging/CT MRI etc.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Decision-Making
  • Critical Care
  • Humans
  • Physical Therapists*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Prospective Studies

Associated data