Transthoracic ultrasound in the assessment of pleural and pulmonary diseases: Use and limitations

Marco Sperandeo, Antonio Rotondo, Giuseppe Guglielmi, Daniela Catalano, Beatrice Feragalli, Guglielmo M. Trovato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Interest in transthoracic ultrasound (US) procedures increased after the availability of portable US equipment suitable for use at the patient’s bedside. It is possible to detect space-occupying lesions of the pleura, pleural effusion, focal or diffuse pleural thickening and subpleural lesions of the lung, even in emergency settings. Transthoracic US is useful as a guidance system for thoracentesis and peripheral lesion biopsy, where it minimises the occurrence of pneumothorax and haemorrhage. Transthoracic US imaging is strongly influenced by physical interaction of the ultrasonic beam at the tissue/air interface, which gives rise to reverberations classified as simple (A-line), ‘‘comet tail’’ and ‘‘ring down’’(B-line) artifacts. Although these artifacts can be suggestive of a disease condition, they are essentially imaging errors present even in normal subjects and in empty-pleura post-pneumonectomy patients. In order to clarify some confusion and to report on the state of the art, we present a review of the literature on transthoracic US in diseases of the pleura and peripheral lung regions and our own clinical experience over 3 decades. The review focuses on quality assurance procedures and their value in diagnostic imaging and patient monitoring and warns against possible inappropriate indications and misleading information. Thoracic US is much more than ‘‘fishing for the moon in the well’’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-740
Number of pages12
JournalRadiologia Medica
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2 2014


  • Contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS)
  • COPD
  • Lung
  • Pleurisy
  • Thoracic ultrasound (TUS)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Medicine(all)


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