Should the ultrasound probe replace your stethoscope? A SICS-I sub-study comparing lung ultrasound and pulmonary auscultation in the critically ill

E.G.M. Cox*, G. Koster, A. Baron, T. Kaufmann, R.J. Eck, T.C. Veenstra, B. Hiemstra, A. Wong, T.C. Kwee, J.E. Tulleken, F. Keus, R. Wiersema, W.C.C. van Der Horst, W. Dieperink, R. Bleijendaal, Y.F. Cawale, R.P. Clement, D. Dijkhuizen, A. Haker, C.D.H. HilbinkM. Klasen, M. Klaver, L.J. Schokking, V.W. Sikkens, M. Vos, J. Woerlee, SICS Study Group

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background In critically ill patients, auscultation might be challenging as dorsal lung fields are difficult to reach in supine-positioned patients, and the environment is often noisy. In recent years, clinicians have started to consider lung ultrasound as a useful diagnostic tool for a variety of pulmonary pathologies, including pulmonary edema. The aim of this study was to compare lung ultrasound and pulmonary auscultation for detecting pulmonary edema in critically ill patients. Methods This study was a planned sub-study of the Simple Intensive Care Studies-I, a single-center, prospective observational study. All acutely admitted patients who were 18 years and older with an expected ICU stay of at least 24 h were eligible for inclusion. All patients underwent clinical examination combined with lung ultrasound, conducted by researchers not involved in patient care. Clinical examination included auscultation of the bilateral regions for crepitations and rhonchi. Lung ultrasound was conducted according to the Bedside Lung Ultrasound in Emergency protocol. Pulmonary edema was defined as three or more B lines in at least two (bilateral) scan sites. An agreement was described by using the Cohen kappa coefficient, sensitivity, specificity, negative predictive value, positive predictive value, and overall accuracy. Subgroup analysis were performed in patients who were not mechanically ventilated. Results The Simple Intensive Care Studies-I cohort included 1075 patients, of whom 926 (86%) were eligible for inclusion in this analysis. Three hundred seven of the 926 patients (33%) fulfilled the criteria for pulmonary edema on lung ultrasound. In 156 (51%) of these patients, auscultation was normal. A total of 302 patients (32%) had audible crepitations or rhonchi upon auscultation. From 130 patients with crepitations, 86 patients (66%) had pulmonary edema on lung ultrasound, and from 209 patients with rhonchi, 96 patients (46%) had pulmonary edema on lung ultrasound. The agreement between auscultation findings and lung ultrasound diagnosis was poor (kappa statistic 0.25). Subgroup analysis showed that the diagnostic accuracy of auscultation was better in non-ventilated than in ventilated patients. Conclusion The agreement between lung ultrasound and auscultation is poor.
Original languageEnglish
Article number14
Number of pages7
JournalCritical Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2020


  • auscultation
  • chest radiography
  • clinical examination
  • critical care
  • diagnostic accuracy
  • heart-failure
  • lung ultrasound
  • prospective study
  • pulmonary edema
  • sonography
  • Auscultation
  • Critical care
  • Lung ultrasound
  • Clinical examination
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Diagnostic accuracy
  • Prospective study

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