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Anaesthesia. 2018 Aug;73(8):946-954. doi: 10.1111/anae.14243. Epub 2018 Mar 12.

Lung ultrasound compared with chest X-ray in diagnosing postoperative pulmonary complications following cardiothoracic surgery: a prospective observational study.

Author information

1
Department of Intensive Care Medicine, Amsterdam Cardiovascular Sciences, Amsterdam Infection and Immunity Institute, VU University Medical Center Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
2
Department of Anaesthesiology, Amsterdam Cardiovascular Sciences, Amsterdam Infection and Immunity Institute, VU University Medical Center Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
3
Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Amsterdam Cardiovascular Sciences, Amsterdam Infection and Immunity Institute, VU University Medical Center Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
4
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Amsterdam Cardiovascular Sciences, Amsterdam Infection and Immunity Institute, VU University Medical Center Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Abstract

Postoperative pulmonary complications are common after cardiothoracic surgery and are associated with adverse outcomes. The ability to detect postoperative pulmonary complications using chest X-rays is limited, and this technique requires radiation exposure. Little is known about the diagnostic accuracy of lung ultrasound for the detection of postoperative pulmonary complications after cardiothoracic surgery, and we therefore aimed to compare lung ultrasound with chest X-ray to detect postoperative pulmonary complications in this group of patients. We performed this prospective, observational, single-centre study in a tertiary intensive care unit treating adult patients who had undergone cardiothoracic surgery. We recorded chest X-ray findings upon admission and on postoperative days 2 and 3, as well as rates of postoperative pulmonary complications and clinically-relevant postoperative pulmonary complications that required therapy according to the treating physician as part of their standard clinical practice. Lung ultrasound was performed by an independent researcher at the time of chest X-ray. We compared lung ultrasound with chest X-ray for the detection of postoperative pulmonary complications and clinically-relevant postoperative pulmonary complications. We also assessed inter-observer agreement for lung ultrasound, and the time to perform both imaging techniques. Subgroup analyses were performed to compare the time to detection of clinically-relevant postoperative pulmonary complications by both modalities. We recruited a total of 177 patients in whom both lung ultrasound and chest X-ray imaging were performed. Lung ultrasound identified 159 (90%) postoperative pulmonary complications on the day of admission compared with 107 (61%) identified with chest X-ray (p < 0.001). Lung ultrasound identified 11 out of 17 patients (65%) and chest X-ray 7 out of 17 patients (41%) with clinically-relevant postoperative pulmonary complications (p < 0.001). The clinically-relevant postoperative pulmonary complications were detected earlier using lung ultrasound compared with chest X-ray (p = 0.024). Overall inter-observer agreement for lung ultrasound was excellent (κ = 0.907, p < 0.001). Following cardiothoracic surgery, lung ultrasound detected more postoperative pulmonary complications and clinically-relevant postoperative pulmonary complications than chest X-ray, and at an earlier time-point. Our results suggest lung ultrasound may be used as the primary imaging technique to search for postoperative pulmonary complications after cardiothoracic surgery, and will enhance bedside decision making.

KEYWORDS:

cardiothoracic surgery and cardiac surgery; chest X-ray; lung ultrasound; postoperative pulmonary complications

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