Lung ultrasound volume sweep imaging for respiratory illness: a new horizon in expanding imaging access

Thomas J. Marini, Justin M. Weis, Timothy M. Baran, Jonah Kan, Steven Meng, Alex Yeo, Yu T. Zhao, Robert Ambrosini, Sean Cleary, Deborah Rubens, Mitchell Chess, Benjamin Castaneda, Ann Dozier, Timothy O'connor, Brian Garra, Katherine Kaproth-Joslin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background Respiratory illness is a leading cause of morbidity in adults and the number one cause of mortality in children, yet billions of people lack access to medical imaging to assist in its diagnosis. Although ultrasound is highly sensitive and specific for respiratory illness such as pneumonia, its deployment is limited by a lack of sonographers. As a solution, we tested a standardised lung ultrasound volume sweep imaging (VSI) protocol based solely on external body landmarks performed by individuals without prior ultrasound experience after brief training. Each step in the VSI protocol is saved as a video clip for later interpretation by a specialist. Methods Dyspneic hospitalised patients were scanned by ultrasound naive operators after 2 hours of training using the lung ultrasound VSI protocol. Separate blinded readers interpreted both lung ultrasound VSI examinations and standard of care chest radiographs to ascertain the diagnostic value of lung VSI considering chest X-ray as the reference standard. Comparison to clinical diagnosis as documented in the medical record and CT (when available) were also performed. Readers offered a final interpretation of normal, abnormal, or indeterminate/borderline for each VSI examination, chest X-ray, and CT. Results Operators scanned 102 subjects (0-89 years old) for analysis. Lung VSI showed a sensitivity of 93% and a specificity of 91% for an abnormal chest X-ray and a sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 93% for a clinical diagnosis of pneumonia. When any cases with an indeterminate rating on chest X-ray or ultrasound were excluded (n=38), VSI lung ultrasound showed 92% agreement with chest X-ray (Cohen's κ 0.83 (0.68 to 0.97, p<0.0001)). Among cases with CT (n=21), when any ultrasound with an indeterminate rating was excluded (n=3), there was 100% agreement with VSI. Conclusion Lung VSI performed by previously inexperienced ultrasound operators after brief training showed excellent agreement with chest X-ray and high sensitivity and specificity for a clinical diagnosis of pneumonia. Blinded readers were able to identify other respiratory diseases including pulmonary oedema and pleural effusion. Deployment of lung VSI could benefit the health of the global community.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere000919
JournalBMJ Open Respiratory Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 12 Nov 2021


  • pleural effusion
  • pneumonia
  • pulmonary edema
  • teleultrasound
  • ultrasound


Dive into the research topics of 'Lung ultrasound volume sweep imaging for respiratory illness: a new horizon in expanding imaging access'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this