Ultrasound evaluation of the magnitude of pneumothorax: A new concept

Ashot E. Sargsyan, Douglas R. Hamilton, Saavas Nicolaou, Andrew W. Kirkpatrick, Mark R. Campbell, Roger D. Billica, David L Dawson, David R. Williams, Shannon L. Melton, George Beck, Kevin Forkheim, Scott A. Dulchavsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Pneumothorax is commonly seen in trauma patients; the diagnosis is confirmed by radiography. The use of ultrasound where radiographic capabilities are absent, is being investigated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. We investigated the ability of ultrasound to assess the magnitude of pneumothorax in a porcine model. Sonography was performed on anesthetized pigs in both ground-based laboratory (n = 5) and microgravity conditions (0 × g) aboard the KC-135 aircraft during parabolic flight (n = 4). Aliquots of air (50-100 cm3) were introduced into the chest to simulate pneumothorax. Results were videorecorded and digitized for later interpretation. Several distinct sonographic patterns of partial lung sliding were noted including the combination of a sliding zone with a still zone and a "segmented" sliding zone. These "partial lung sliding" patterns exclude massive pneumothorax manifested by a complete separation of the lung from the parietal pleura. In 0 × g, the sonographic picture is more diverse; one × g differences between posterior and anterior aspects are diminished. Modest pneumothorax can be inferred by the ultrasound sign of "partial lung sliding." This finding, which increases the negative predictive value of thoracic ultrasound, may be attributed to intermittent pleural contact, small air spaces, or alterations in pleural lubricant. Further studies of these phenomena are warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)232-235
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Surgeon
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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