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Role of ward-based pleural ultrasound. Dr R Teoh Department of Respiratory Medicine Castle Hill Hospital. Reason for study: To assess position of right chest drain inserted into the eighth intercostal space, but is projecting over the right upper quadrant on the abdominal x-ray. Report:

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role of ward based pleural ultrasound

Role of ward-based pleural ultrasound

Dr R Teoh

Department of Respiratory Medicine

Castle Hill Hospital


Reason for study:

To assess position of right chest drain inserted into the eighth intercostal space, but is projecting over the right upper quadrant on the abdominal x-ray.


In the abdomen the chest drain has been inserted through the lower right hemidiaphragm into the right lobe of the liver.

This crosses through the right lobe of the liver to the left lobe avoiding both main branches of the portal vein.

It exits the left lobe through its inferior surface and runs anterior to the distal stomach and terminates just anterior to the hepatic flexure of the colon.

The drain is not passing through the pleural cavity.

accuracy of pleural puncture sites clinical examination versus ultrasound
Accuracy of pleural puncture sites: Clinical examination versus ultrasound
  • 15% (25/172) of “blind” puncture sites inaccurate
  • US potentially prevented organ puncture in 10% (17/172)
  • US increased localisation of accurate site by 26% (65/255)

255 procedures

Puncture site identified:

172/255 (67%)

No puncture site identified:

83/255 (33%)


147/172 (85%)


25/172 (15%)

US - Site found:

45/83 (54%)

US - No site found:

38/83 (46%)

8: Insufficient fluid

5: Lung

12: Liver or spleen

USS identified accurate site in 20/25 (80%)

Diacon et al. Chest 2003; 123: 436-441


Ultrasound findings following failed, clinically directed thoracentesis

  • 8/26 (31%) had no pleural fluid on US
  • 10/26 (38%) blind thoracentesis were misdirected
  • 14/16 (88%) US-guided thoracentesis successful

Weingardt JP etl al. J Clin Ultrasound, 1994; 22: 419-426.


US-guided thoracentesis: Complication rates

  • Prospective descriptive study (n=941)
  • Interventional radiologists
  • Lower complication rate with US guidance compared to historical controls

Jones et al, Chest 1990; 123: 418-423


RCT comparing US guided versus blind thoracentesis


  • RCT (n=52)
  • Medical and radiology residents
  • Lower complication rate with US guidance

Grogan et al, Arch Intern Med 1990; 150: 873-877


US guided thoracentesis: Success rate

  • Prospective RCT (n=205)
  • Physician-performed thoracentesis with and without US guidance (X-marks the spot)
  • US guidance increases yield in small and loculated pleural effusions

Kohan JM et al. Am Rev Respir Dis 1985; 133: 1124-26.



Normal lung & rib shadow

Compressive atelectasis

Diaphragm, liver & pleural effusion

Consolidation with air bronchograms

Small pleural effusion


Ultrasound study in unilateral hemithorax opacification

Yu CJ et al. Am Rev Respir Dis, 1993: 147: 430-434

advantages of ward based pleural ultrasound
Advantages of ward-based pleural ultrasound
  • Detects pleural pathology
  • Pleural versus parenchymal lesions
  • Guides pleural procedures
  • Monitors pleural disease
  • Performed at bedside
  • No delays
  • No radiation
disadvantages of ward based pleural ultrasound
Disadvantages of ward-based pleural ultrasound
  • High capital cost
  • Inadequate environment
  • Operator-dependent
  • Training requirements
the impact of ward based pleural ultrasound in a respiratory unit23
The impact of ward-based pleural ultrasound in a respiratory unit
  • 54/102 (53%) had US within 24 hours of admission
  • 30/102 (29%) had no or insufficient pleural fluid to aspirate or drain
  • Guided 15/88 (17%) procedures in small or loculated effusion
  • No complications
  • Overall ward-based ultrasound affected management in 45/102 (44%) of cases

102 patients

Pleural effusion present: 88

Clinical detectable: 63/88

Clinically undetectable: 25/88

No pleural effusion present: 14




11/88 (13%)


46/88 (52%)

Thoracentesis: 8/88 (9%)

US guided chest drain: 7/88 (8%)

US guided chest drain 41/88 (47%)

indications for pleural ultrasound
Indications for pleural ultrasound
  • To clarify the nature of pleural shadowing
  • To guide thoracentesis and drainage of pleural effusions, especially those which are small or loculated
  • To determine the nature of hemithorax “white-out”
  • To differentiate between subpulmonary effusion, subphrenic collection or elevated hemidiaphragm
  • To localise pleural thickening or pleural tumours prior to biopsy
  • To exclude post-intervention pneumothorax

Adapted from Tsai et al, Curr Opin Pulm Med 2003; 9: 282-290

ultrasound machines
Ultrasound machines
  • Portable +/- stand
  • Fewest knobs
  • Transducer:
    • Phase: 3.75 Mhz
    • Linear: 5 to 10 Mhz
  • Consider Colour Doppler mode
  • Warranty 2-5 years
  • New or second hand
  • Manufacturers: Sonosite, GE, Philips
  • “Ultrasound equpiment business case”
rcr recommendations for physician operated thoracic us
RCR recommendations for physician-operated thoracic US
  • Ultrasound course
  • Observing 20 chest US
  • Performing:
    • 20 US on normal patients
    • 10 US in patients with pleural effusions
    • 5 diagnostic aspirations or drain placements
  • Supervised by Level II practitioner
  • “Business case for practical training in ultrasound for non-radiologist”.
chest ultrasound courses
Chest ultrasound courses

James Cook Hospital


19 June 2009

Royal Preston Hospital

St. James’s University Hospital, Leeds

Pilgrim Hospital


Bromley Hospital


St. George’s Hospital


pleural ultrasound is it worth a look
Pleural ultrasound:Is it worth a look?
  • Ward-based physician-operated ultrasound can improve the yield and safety of diagnostic and therapeutic pleural procedures
  • High capital cost and training requirements may limit its implementation across the UK