We are doing this research to try and discover a better way of identifying fluid in the lungs. We are starting with a specific and common situation- the elderly patient (such as yourself) – who presents to us complaining of breathlessness. The cause of breathlessness is an answer sought many times a day by the average emergency nurse, doctor, or paramedic.
One would think this would be easy with all the modern technologies of blood tests, electrocardiographs and chest xrays. Unfortunately these techniques are not so good at identifying fluid in the lungs, and we can get the cause wrong (initially) in up to one quarter of patients. This is a particular problem when there is no expert radiologist to interpret the chest xray on the spot. The worst case scenario is that the patient (yourself) is started on treatment that will not help the cause of your breathlessness.
It is even harder in rural or pre-hospital situations where there is no xray facility. Luckily, portable ultrasound machines are becoming more common, capable and affordable. They are also safer than xrays. People are calling ultrasound ‘the stethoscope of this century’.
Our aim is to see if lung ultrasound may one day be able to replace chest xray in certain situations. We know it is safe, and potentially more accurate than chest xray. Now we want to know if it is still accurate in the hands of our more junior colleagues. Let us be honest – it does not have to be brilliant to improve on our inexpert xray interpretations. On the other hand, the differences between wet and dry lung are fairly obvious, as you can see below.