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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1992 Oct;159(4):695-701.

Diagnostic and therapeutic use of chest sonography: value in critically ill patients.

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Department of Internal Medicine, National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Republic of China.



Portable chest radiography, used for critically ill patients, often fails to depict thoracic disease clearly. Chest sonography allows good characterization of pleural diseases, mediastinal lesions, and pulmonary consolidations, and provides accurate and safe guidance for interventional procedures. Accordingly, we evaluated its usefulness in the diagnosis and management of critically ill patients.


Sonography was used prospectively to evaluate 41 critically ill patients, when portable chest radiographs were difficult to interpret and failed to explain the clinical findings. An initial diagnosis was made on the basis of clinical and radiologic information. The final diagnosis was confirmed by thoracentesis (n = 15), image-guided aspiration biopsy (n = 7), surgery (n = 3), and clinical follow-up (n = 16). All 41 sonographic examinations were performed by a sonographer who had no knowledge of the initial diagnosis. The sonographic findings were recorded and analyzed. The usefulness of sonography in diagnosis and management was then evaluated according to the following criteria: diagnostic value--(1) made diagnosis, (2) changed diagnosis, (3) additional information, (4) no benefit; and management aid--(1) affected decision, (2) affected decision and guided thoracentesis, (3) affected diagnosis and guided aspiration, (4) no benefit.


Chest sonography was helpful in diagnosis in 27 (66%) of 41 patients and in treatment in 37 (90%) of 41 patients. A significant influence on treatment planning occurred in 17 (41%) of 41 patients. A diagnostic aspiration biopsy under sonographic detected sonographically. Thoracentesis were attempted in 25 of 29 patients with pleural effusion and were successful in 24 patients (96%); a minimal pneumothorax developed in one patient (4%).


Chest sonography is a useful diagnostic tool for critically ill patients with chest diseases. This technique can be particularly helpful when CT is not available or when critically ill patients cannot be moved.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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