Role of point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) in the diagnosis of an abscess in paediatric skin and soft tissue infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Jiangfeng Wu, Lijing Ge, Xiaoyun Wang, Yun Jin


Aims: To evaluate the effect of point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) for the diagnosis of an abscess and to compare the diagnostic accuracy of POCUS and physical examination (PE) in paediatric patients with skin and soft tissue infections (SSTI) in the emergency department.

Material and methods: A comprehensive literature search was carried out to identify Englishlanguage studies on POCUS for differentiating an abscess from cellulitis in paediatric patients with SSTI. The quality of the study was assessed by the Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies 2 tool, and pooled sensitivity and specificity of various POCUS findings were determined.

Results: Seven studies with a total of 870 patients were included. There was significant heterogeneity across the included studies. The pooled sensitivity, specificity, positive likelihood ratio, negative likelihood ratio, and diagnostic odds ratio for the diagnosis of abscess by POCUS were 0.90 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.82-0.95), 0.80 (95% CI, 0.72-0.86), 4.5 (95% CI, 3.1-6.4), 0.13 (95% CI, 0.07-0.23), and 36 (95% CI, 17-75), respectively, with an area under the curve (AUC) was 0.89 (95% CI, 0.86-0.91). Four studies provided data regarding the PE method. The pooled sensitivity, specificity, and AUC of PE for the abscess were 0.84 (95% CI, 0.80-0.88), 0.69 (95% CI, 0.62-0.76), and 0.85 (95% CI, 0.81-0.88).

Conclusions: POCUS is useful in identifying abscesses in paediatric patients with SSTI in emergency department, especially when PE is equivocal and outperforms PE alone.


point-of-care ultrasound; skin and soft tissue infections; abscess; cellulitis; paediatrics; meta-analysis



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