Chest wall – underappreciated structure in sonography. Part I: Examination methodology and ultrasound anatomy
J Ultrason 2017; 17: 197–205
DOI: 10.15557/JoU.2017.0029

Chest wall ultrasound has been awarded little interest in the literature, with chest wall anatomy described only in limited extent. The objective of this study has been to discuss the methodology of chest wall ultrasound and the sonographic anatomy of the region to facilitate professional evaluation of this complex structure. The primarily used transducer is a 7–12 MHz linear one. A 3–5 MHz convex (curvilinear) transducer may also be helpful, especially in obese and very muscular patients. Doppler and panoramic imaging options are essential. The indications for chest wall ultrasound include localized pain or lesions found or suspected on imaging with other modalities (conventional radiography, CT, MR or scintigraphy). The investigated pathological condition should be scanned in at least two planes. Sometimes, evaluation during deep breathing permits identification of pathological mobility (e.g. in rib or sternum fractures, slipping rib syndrome). Several structures, closely associated with each other, need to be considered in the evaluation of the chest wall. The skin, which forms a hyperechoic covering, requires a high frequency transducer (20–45 MHz). The subcutaneous fat is characterized by clusters of hypoechoic lobules. Chest muscles have a very complex structure, but their appearance on ultrasound does not differ from the images of muscles located in other anatomical regions. As far as cartilaginous and bony structures of the chest are concerned, the differences in the anatomy of the ribs, sternum, scapula and sternoclavicular joints have been discussed. The rich vascular network which is only fragmentarily accessible for ultrasound assessment has been briefly discussed. A comprehensive evaluation of the chest wall should include the axillary, supraclavicular, apical and parasternal lymph nodes. Their examination requires the use of elastography and contrast-enhanced ultrasound.

Key words: ribs, sternum, scapula, sternoclavicular joints, ultrasound