Lung Ultrasound in the Evaluation of Pleural Infection

Lung Ultrasound in the Evaluation of Pleural Infection

Resident Clinical Pearl (RCP) July 2019

Yazan Ghanem PGY5 Internal Medicine, Dalhousie University

SJRHEM PoCUS Elective

 

Reviewed and edited by  Dr. David Lewis.

 


CASE: MR. WHITE

 

83 year old male with known past medical history of mild cognitive impairment (lives alone in assisted living). Two weeks prior to current presentation, he was admitted with community acquired pneumonia and discharged after 2 nights of hospital stay on oral antibiotics.

He is now presenting with 5 days history of worsening dyspnea, fever, fatigue and reduced oral intake. Vital signs are: Temperature 38.4 C; heart rate 80/min; Blood pressure 121/67; Respiratory rate 28/ minute; Oxygen saturation 90% on room air. His chest exam showed reduced air entry and dullness to percussion in the right hemithorax.

CXR:

 

Bedside POCUS:

 

Pleural fluid analysis:

•       WBC – 22,000 cells per uL

•       LDH – 1256 Units / L

•       Glc – 2.2 mmol / L

•       pH – 7.18

•       Gram Stain – Neg

 

Next steps in management?

 

A – 14 Fr pleural drain + Start IV Levofloxacin

 

B – 28 Fr pleural drain + Start Ceftriaxone / Azithromycin

 

C – 14 Fr pleural drain + Start Piperacillin – Tazobactam

 

D – Start Ceftriaxone / Azithromycin + Repeat CXR in 1 week

 

 

(See end of page for answer )

 


 

Normal Thoracic Ultrasound:

Thoracic Ultrasound is limited by bony structures (ribs and scapulae) as well as by air within lungs (poor conductor of sound waves).

With the transducer held in the longitudinal plane:

1 –     Ribs are visualized as repeating curvilinear structures with a posterior acoustic shadow.

2 –     Overlying muscle and fascia are seen as linear shadows with soft tissue with soft tissue echogenicity.

3 –     Parietal and visceral pleura is visualized as a single echogenic line no more than 2 mm in width which “slides” or “glides” beneath the ribs with respiration. Two separate lines can be seen with a high frequency transducer.

4 –     Normal aerated lung blocks progression of sound waves and is characterized by haphazard snowstorm appearance caused by reverberation artifact.

5 –     Diaphragms are bright curvilinear structures which move with respiration. Liver and spleen have a characteristic appearance below the right and left hemi diaphragms respectively.

 

 


Pleural Effusion:

Ultrasound has higher sensitivity in detecting pleural effusions than clinical examination and chest X-Ray.

On Ultrasound, pleural effusions appear as an anechoic or hypoechoic area between the visceral and parietal pleura that changes in shape with respiration. Atelectatic lung tissue appear in the far field as flapping or swaying “tongue-like” echodensities.

Ultrasound morphology:

1-     Anechoic Effusion: Totally echo-free (Could be transudative or exudative)

2-     Complex Non-septated: Echogenic appearing densities present (fibrinous debris). Always exudative.

3-     Complex Septated: Septa appear in fluid. Always exudative.

 

 


Parapneumonic Effusions and Empyema:

Ultrasound is superior to CT in demonstrating septae in the pleural space. However, CT is recommended for evaluation of complex pleuro-parenchymal disease and loculated pleural collections if drainage is planned: There is no correlation between ultrasound appearance and the presence of pus or need for surgical drainage; however, the presence of a septated appearing parapneumonic effusion correlate with poorer outcomes (longer hospital stay, longer chest tube drainage, higher likelihood for need for fibrinolytic therapy and surgical intervention.

Parapneumonic effusions appear as hyperechoic (with or without septae) on ultrasound.

 


Pulmonary Consolidation:

Pulmonary consolidation is sonographically visible in the presence of a pleural effusion that acts as an acoustic window or if directly abutting the pleura.

It appears as a wedge-shaped irregular echogenic area with air or fluid bronchograms.

 


 

Back to Mr. White

 

Next steps in management?

 

A – 14 Fr pleural drain + Start IV Levofloxacin

 

B – 28 Fr pleural drain + Start Ceftriaxone / Azithromycin

 

C –14 Fr pleural drain + Start Pipercillin- Tazobactam

 

D – Start Ceftriaxone / Azithromycin + Repeat CXR in 1 week

 

Rationale:

Complicated parapneumonic effusions should be managed with drainage and antibiotics that will treat anaerobic infection. An alternative would be a combination of Ceftriaxone and Metronidazole (No pseudomonas coverage). Levofloxacin alone does not add any anaerobic coverage. Azithromycin has poor penetration into loculated pleural collections.

 


 References

 

British Thoracic Society – Pleural Disease Guideline – 2010

https://thorax.bmj.com/content/65/8/667

 

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PoCUS – Pleural Effusion

Medical Student Clinical Pearl

James Kiberd

Class 2019 Dalhousie Medicine

Reviewed and Edited by Dr. David Lewis


Case: 

A 90 year-old male presented with worsening shortness of breath on exertion, crackles bilaterally at the bases on auscultation with known history of congestive heart failure. Bedside ultrasound was performed to assess for pleural effusion

Lung Views:

In order to perform ultrasound of the lungs, there are four views that are obtained (see Figure 1). Place the patient supine. The high frequency linear array transducer is often used, but either the phased array or curvilinear transducers can be used. The first views are taken at both right and left mid-clavicular lines of the anterior chest. With the marker of the transducer pointed toward the patient’s head, a minimum of 3-4 rib spaces should be identified. The next views are of the posterior-lateral chest. The patient can be supine or in the sitting position. It is these views where a pleural effusion can be identified.

Figure 1: Chest views with ultrasound. ‘A’ are anterior chest view positions and ‘B’ are posterolateral view positions

Pleural Effusion

Pleural effusion is assessed by ultrasound placing the transducer in the midaxillary line with the marker oriented toward the patient’s head. On the patient’s right side the diaphragm, the liver, and the vertebral line can be seen. On the left, the diaphragm, spleen, and vertebral line should be in view. In a patient without pleural effusion, one should not be able to visualize the lung as it is mostly air and scatters the sound produced by the transducer. However, in the presence of pleural effusion, the area above the diaphragm is filled with fluid and therefore will appear anechoic. In addition, the vertebral line will be present past the diaphragm as the fluid allows the sound waves to propagate and not scatter. This is known as the ‘spine sign’ (also known as the ‘V-line’). Finally, one is often able to see the atelectatic lung float and move with respirations in the fluid, this is known as the ‘sinusoid sign.’ These are the three criteria outlined by consensus statements in the identification of pleural effusions.1 Occasionally, the area above the diaphragm may look like spleen or liver, but this is known as ‘mirror image’ artifact and is normal.2 Figure 2 shows both the right and left views of our patient.

Figure 2: Pleural effusion showing anechoic pleural fluid, atelectatic lung, and ‘spine sign

Accuracy with Ultrasound

Ultrasound is more accurate than either chest x-ray or physical exam in the identification of small pleural effusions.3 For a chest x-ray to identify fluid there usually needs to be more than 200cc present.2 A meta-analysis found that ultrasound had a mean sensitivity of 93% (95%CI: 89-96%) and specificity of 96% (95%CI: 95-98%).4

 

Our patient went on to have a chest x-ray where he was found to have bilateral pleural effusions (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Bilateral pleural effusions seen on chest radiography in our patient.

In Summary

Three criteria are used to identify pleural effusion on ultrasound; anechoic fluid above the diaphragm, the ability to visualize the spine above the diaphragm (‘spine sign’), and atelectatic lung moving with respirations (‘sinusoid sign’). Lung ultrasound for the detection of pleural effusion is more reliable to identify small effusions in comparison to both radiography and physical exam.


References:

  1. Volpicelli G, Elbarbary M, Blaivas M, et al. International evidence-based recommendations for point-of-care lung ultrasound. Intensive Care Med. 2012;38(4):577-591. doi:10.1007/s00134-012-2513-4.
  2. Liu RB, Donroe JH, McNamara RL, Forman HP, Moore CL. The practice and implications of finding fluid during point-of-care ultrasonography: A review. JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177(12):1818-1825. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.5048.
  3. Wong CL, Holroyd-leduc J, Straus SE. CLINICIAN ’ S CORNER Does This Patient Have a Pleural Effusion ? PATIENT SCENARIO. Jama. 2010;301(3):309-317. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.937.
  4. Grimberg AI, Carlos Shigueoka DI, Nagib Atallah III Á, et al. Diagnostic accuracy of sonography for pleural effusion: systematic review Acurácia diagnóstica da ultrassonografia nos derrames pleurais: revisão sistemática
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