Lung ultrasonography to diagnose community-acquired pneumonia in children

Nicola PrincipiAndrea EspositoCaterina Giannitto and Susanna Esposito

Abstract

Background

Early diagnosis of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) is essential to reduce the total burden of this disease. Traditionally, chest radiography (CR) is used to identify true CAP. However, CR is not a perfect diagnostic test for CAP. The use of lung ultrasonography (LUS) has been suggested as an alternative to overcome the problems associated with CR and increase the feasibility and accuracy of CAP diagnosis. LUS has largely been used for the diagnosis of several lung problems, including CAP, in adult patients with satisfactory results. Experience with LUS in children has grown over recent years. The main aim of this paper is to discuss the advantages and limits of LUS in the diagnosis of paediatric CAP.

Discussion

The presence of a consolidation pattern during LUS may represent pneumonia or atelectasis, although this conclusion is operator dependent. An overall agreement between LUS and CR was observed in most of the studies that were examined. In most reports where a disagreement between the two methods was found, CR was not able to identify the cases that were correctly diagnosed by LUS, particularly when CR was performed only with postero-anterior/antero-posterior projection and consolidation was observed in lung areas that are poorly visualized by CR. However, the lack of standardized LUS methods is problematic. Finally, the real advantage of LUS for the diagnosis of CAP in children remains unclear.

Summary

LUS is an interesting diagnostic modality that appears a useful first imaging test in children with suspected CAP. However, the methods used to perform LUS in children are not precisely standardized, and the diagnosis of interstitial CAP is inaccurate. Further studies are needed before LUS can be routinely used in everyday paediatric practice.

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Editor: Juan C. Ivancevich, MD

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