Lung ultrasound shows duration, severity of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
Thickened pleural line more frequently observed in patients with longer time intervals after symptom onset; pulmonary consolidation more common in severe and critical cases
Credit: American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR)
Leesburg, VA, July 23, 2020–According to an open-access article published in ARRS’ American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR), lung ultrasound (US) was highly sensitive for detecting abnormalities in patients with coronavirus disease (COVID-19), with B-lines, a thickened pleural line, and pulmonary consolidation the most commonly observed features.
“In addition,” concluded Yao Zhang of at China’s Beijing Ditan Hospital, “our results indicate that lung US findings can be used to reflect both the infection duration and disease severity.”
From March 3 to March 30, 2020, Zhang and colleagues performed lung US on consecutive patients with positive reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RTPCR) test results for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), using the Fisher exact test to compare the percentages of patients with each US finding between groups with different symptom durations and disease severity.
All 28 patients (14 men and 14 women; age range, 21-92 years) had positive findings on both lung US and chest CT. On US, B-lines were present in 100% of patients, and 19 (67.9%) patients had pulmonary consolidation. Thickened pleural lines were observed in 17 patients (60.7%), and only one patient (3.6%) showed a small amount of pleural effusion.
“A thickened pleural line was more frequently observed on US in patients with longer time intervals after the initial onset of symptoms,” Zhang et al. noted, adding that pulmonary consolidations–visualized as tissuelike hypoechoic regions, reflecting highly reduced air flow and increased quantity of inflammatory cellular exudate–were more common in severe and critical cases.
Acknowledging that portable radiography could be just as useful in evaluating consolidation, “a bedside portable, handheld US system or even a robot-assisted tele-US system (a unique technique for physicians to remotely scan patients) further minimizes the number of health care workers and medical devices exposed to COVID-19,” wrote Zhang and team.
The authors of this AJR article also proposed that severity scoring for lung US, similar to CT severity scores, should be developed to facilitate more accurate comparisons in future studies.
The latest AJR Podcast episode takes a closer look at “Lung US Findings in Coronavirus Disease-19 (COVID-19) Patients,” noting that compared to CT, US is portable, less costly, and does not use radiation–making US a useful tool for triage, particularly in pre-hospital/outpatient settings, and severity stratification and monitoring, especially for critically ill patients who may be challenging to transport and require careful ventilation management:
Founded in 1900, the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS) is the first and oldest radiological society in North America, dedicated to the advancement of medicine through the profession of radiology and its allied sciences. An international forum for progress in medical imaging since the discovery of the x-ray, ARRS maintains its mission of improving health through a community committed to advancing knowledge and skills with an annual scientific meeting, monthly publication of the peer-reviewed American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR), quarterly issues of InPractice magazine, AJR Live Webinars and Podcasts, topical symposia, print and online educational materials, as well as awarding scholarships via The Roentgen Fund.
Logan K. Young
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