Chest ultrasound is a useful diagnostic tool in adult emergency medicine. Echography does not generate a clear image of the lung but is able to generate artifacts that are combined in disease-specific profiles. Reflections of the pleural image appear as short straight lines also known as A-lines. Vertical, comet-tail artifacts departing from the pleura are named B-lines. The former are present in the normal lung while the latter have been described in the adult wet lung. Lung ultrasonography outperforms conventional radiology in the emergency diagnosis of pneumothorax and pleural effusions. Neonatologists and pediatricians are now adapting lung ultrasound to their specific clinical issues. The normal image is relatively unchanged throughout the age span, while progressively fading B-lines describe the fluid-to-air transition of the neonatal lung. Also, an homogeneous white (hyperechogenic) lung with pleural image abnormalities and absence of spared areas is accurate in diagnosing Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS). The prevalence of A-lines in the upper lung fields with B-lines at the bottom fields (aka double lung point artifact) is highly sensitive and specific in describing Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn. Infantile pneumonia has recently been proved an accurate diagnosis by ultrasound after a short training.
In summary, chest ultrasonography has no ground to replace conventional chest radiology tout court. However, when appropriately applied, a lung ultrasound scan can save time and radiation exposure to achieve a critical diagnosis.
Proceedings of the 9th International Workshop on Neonatology · Cagliari (Italy) · October 23rd-26th, 2013 · Learned lessons, changing practice and cutting-edge research