BACKGROUND: In patients with pleural effusion, specific ultrasound characteristics are associated with pleural malignancy.
OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to evaluate the added value of an additional, up-front, systematic thoracic ultrasound (TUS) to standard imaging in patients with unilateral pleural effusion of unknown cause in a clinical setting.
METHODS: In a prospective observational pilot study, patients referred for workup and thoracentesis of a unilateral pleural effusion received up-front TUS following a set protocol in addition to available imaging and US guiding the thoracentesis or diagnostic puncture. The primary outcome was the proportion of cases where systematic TUS changed the planned diagnostic workup. Follow-up took place 26 weeks after inclusion.
RESULTS: From February to December 2020, 55 patients were included. Thirty-six (65%) patients had other chest imaging available before TUS. Twenty-one (38%) were diagnosed with malignant pleural effusion. Three patients (5%) had clinically relevant changes in the diagnostic workup after additional systematic TUS.
CONCLUSIONS: Additional up-front, systematic TUS had limited clinically relevant effect on the planned diagnostic workup in patients with unilateral pleural effusion in a setting where chest CT scans often are available at referral.