Point of Care Ultrasound for the General Internist: Pleural Effusions

Keywords: Point of Care Ultrasound, Pleural Effusion, General Internal Medicine, Internal Medicine


Pleural effusions are a common finding in many clinical settings and have important diagnostic and therapeutic implications.   They may be identified by physical exam, chest radiography, chest computerized tomography (CT) scans or point of care ultrasonography (POCUS).  The use of POCUS for the diagnosis and management of pleural effusions offers several advantages relevant to the practice of the general internist.  For the diagnosis of pleural effusion, POCUS has superior sensitivity and specificity when compared to chest radiography and physical exam.  Abnormal sonographic features of the pleural fluid and the adjacent pleura may suggest the presence of an exudative or malignant effusion. POCUS can be used to quickly estimate the size of a pleural effusion.  Lastly, the use of ultrasound guidance when performing a thoracentesis reduces the risk of pneumothorax and hemorrhage.

Author Biographies

Darrel William Cotton, University of Calgary
Clinical Associate Professor
Department of Medicine
Division of General Internal Medicine
University of Calgary

Ryan Lenz, University of Calgary
Clinical Lecturer
Department of Medicine
Division of General Internal Medicine
University of Calgary
Brendan Kerr, University of Calgary
Clinical Lecturer
Department of Medicine
Division of General Internal Medicine
University of Calgary
Irene Ma, University of Calgary

Assistant Professor
Department of Medicine
Division of General Internal Medicine
University of Calgary


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How to Cite
Cotton, D., Lenz, R., Kerr, B., & Ma, I. (2018). Point of Care Ultrasound for the General Internist: Pleural Effusions. Canadian Journal of General Internal Medicine, 13(2). https://doi.org/10.22374/cjgim.v13i2.231
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