Ultrasound For Detection Of Pleural Effusion

The pleural effusion results in accumulation of fluid in the pleural space due to imbalance between the formation and reabsorption of pleural fluid or due to an alteration in the drainage to lymph nodes. Initially, pleural effusion was called pleural spill.

Ultrasound for pleural effusion gives valuable information about the nature of the pleural densities, pleural effusions and pleural thickening.

This Imaging Technique Is Used To:

  • Differentiate pleural from parenchymal lesions
  • Visualize ill parenchyma covered by pleural effusion
  • To detect pleural septations and other pleural abnormalities

The Pleural Effusion Can Be Categorized Into Two Types:

  • Transudate: This kind of pleural effusion occurs when there is an increase of hydrostatic pressure or a decrease of capillary oncotic pressure.
  • Exsudate: Increase in permeability in microcirculation or alteration in the pleural space drainage to lymph nodes leads to this kind of pleural effusion.
Ultrasound is considered to be a better technique for the analysis and quantification of fluids in pleural effusion as compared to chest x-rays. Ultrasound is a better imaging technique capable of correlating the effusion thickness with the real volume. Small quantity of pleural locular fluid as small as 3 to 5 ml can be detected by ultrasound. This is not possible using x-rays, that can detect volumes above 50 ml of liquid. This technique allows an easy differentiation of pleural locular liquid and thickened pleura.

During Ultrasound for pleural effusion, the transducer is placed on the posterior axillary line between the ninth and eleventh ribs for identification of the liver on the right side, the spleen on the left side, and the diaphragm.


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