Bedside lung ultrasounds accurately detect pneumonia, providing an alternative to the chest X-ray traditionally used for diagnosis, according to research published in CHEST last week.

In this systematic literature review and meta-analysis, the researchers assessed the accuracy of bedside lung ultrasound for the diagnosis of pneumonia in 16 studies (2,359 participants). Lung ultrasound is safer and less expensive than chest X-ray and CT. They used a bivariate random-effects analysis to find summary receiver operating characteristics (SROC) curve and a pooled estimation of the diagnostic odds ratio.

Llamas-Álvarez and associates found the area under the SROC curve was 0.93, with a diagnostic odds ratio of 50 (95% CI, 21-120]). Q test results showed significant diversity of sensitivity and specificity. The investigators detected tendency toward higher area under the SROC curve in high quality studies, but these differences were insignificant after bivariate meta-regression.

“Lung ultrasonography has high sensitivity and specificity and appears to be a valuable complement to chest radiography for the diagnosis of pneumonia in adults,” Llamas-Álvarez and colleagues wrote. “The implementation of lung ultrasonography helps to minimize the number of radiological examinations, which could also have positive impact on patient and staff safety, optimizing the use of time and economic resources.”