Point of care ultrasound in thoracic malignancy

Matthew J. Miles, Shaheen Islam


Ultrasonography is a safe, efficient and cost-effective mode of imaging that can assist clinicians with important treatment decisions and provide procedural guidance. Today, point of care ultrasound plays an essential role in the assessment of benign and malignant conditions of chest, both in the outpatient and inpatient setting. Small, ultra-portable, affordable units can now be carried in the coat pocket. Advanced lung cancer, metastatic diseases to the lungs or thoracic malignancies can present with pleural effusion, pulmonary edema, post-obstructive pneumonia, or ascites that can be assessed by the clinician with ultrasound. It can be used to evaluate the extent of thoracic tumors beyond the parenchyma to the parietal pleura or chest wall, assess cervical, supraclavicular lymphadenopathy prior to fine needle aspiration or to determine venous thromboembolism (VTE) associated with malignancy. Thoracic ultrasound is currently being practiced by the pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons and intensivists to provide guidance during placement of pleural catheters, chest tubes or to evaluate the pleural cavity before thoracoscopy. Point of care ultrasound can improve efficiency in procedures by decreasing complications, increasing success and reducing financial strain on the health care system.