We review the literature on the use of point-of-care ultrasound to evaluate and manage pleural effusions. Point-of-care ultrasound is more sensitive than physical exam and chest radiography to detect pleural effusions, and avoids many negative aspects of computerized tomography. Additionally, point-of-care ultrasound can assess pleural fluid volume and character, revealing possible underlying pathologies and guiding management. Thoracentesis performed with ultrasound guidance has lower risk of pneumothorax and bleeding complications. Future research should focus on the clinical effectiveness of point-of-care ultrasound in the routine management of pleural effusions and how new technologies may expand its clinical utility.
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© 2015 Society of Hospital Medicine.