Implementation of lung ultrasonography by general practitioners for lower respiratory tract infections: a feasibility study

Scand J Prim Health Care. 2024 May 20:1-8. doi: 10.1080/02813432.2024.2343678. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Objective: To evaluate the feasibility of lung ultrasonography (LUS) performed by novice users' general practitioners (GPs) in diagnosing lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs) in primary health care settings.

Design: A prospective interventional multicenter study (December 2019-March 2020).

Settings and subjects: Patients aged >3 months, suspected of having LRTI consulting in three different general practices (GPs) (rural, semirural and urban) in France.

Main outcome measures: Feasibility of LUS by GPs was assessed by (1) the proportion of patients where LUS was not performed, (2) technical breakdowns, (3) interpretability of images by GPs, (4) examination duration and (5) patient perception and acceptability.

Results: A total of 151 patients were recruited, and GPs performed LUS for 111 (73.5%) patients (LUS group). In 99.1% (n = 110) of cases, GPs indicated that they were able to interpret images. The median [IQR] exam duration was 4 [3-5] minutes. LRTI was diagnosed in 70.3% and 60% of patients in the LUS and no-LUS groups, respectively (p = .43). After LUS, GPs changed their diagnosis from 'other' to 'LRTI' in six cases (+5.4%, p < .001), prescribed antibiotics for five patients (+4.5%, p = .164) and complementary chest imaging for 10 patients (+9%, p < .001). Patient stress was reported in 1.8% of cases, 81.7% of patients declared that they better understood the diagnosis, and 82% of patients thought that the GP diagnosis was more reliable after LUS.

Conclusions: LUS by GPs using handheld devices is a feasible diagnostic tool in primary health care for LRTI symptoms, demonstrating both effectiveness and positive patient reception.

Trial registration number: Clinicaltrial.gov: NCT04602234, 20/10/2020.

Keywords: General practice; family medicine; lung ultrasonography; point-of-care ultrasound; primary care.

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT04602234