J Ultrasound Med. 2021 Mar;40(3):443-456. doi: 10.1002/jum.15417. Epub 2020 Aug 14.
OBJECTIVES: To perform a prospective longitudinal analysis of lung ultrasound findings in critically ill patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
METHODS: Eighty-nine intensive care unit (ICU) patients with confirmed COVID-19 were prospectively enrolled and tracked. Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) examinations were performed with phased array, convex, and linear transducers using portable machines. The thorax was scanned in 12 lung areas: anterior, lateral, and posterior (superior/inferior) bilaterally. Lower limbs were scanned for deep venous thrombosis and chest computed tomographic angiography was performed to exclude suspected pulmonary embolism (PE). Follow-up POCUS was performed weekly and before hospital discharge.
RESULTS: Patients were predominantly male (84.2%), with a median age of 43 years. The median duration of mechanical ventilation was 17 (interquartile range, 10-22) days; the ICU length of stay was 22 (interquartile range, 20.2-25.2) days; and the 28-day mortality rate was 28.1%. On ICU admission, POCUS detected bilateral irregular pleural lines (78.6%) with accompanying confluent and separate B-lines (100%), variable consolidations (61.7%), and pleural and cardiac effusions (22.4% and 13.4%, respectively). These findings appeared to signify a late stage of COVID-19 pneumonia. Deep venous thrombosis was identified in 16.8% of patients, whereas chest computed tomographic angiography confirmed PE in 24.7% of patients. Five to six weeks after ICU admission, follow-up POCUS examinations detected significantly lower rates (P < .05) of lung abnormalities in survivors.
CONCLUSIONS: Point-of-care ultrasound depicted B-lines, pleural line irregularities, and variable consolidations. Lung ultrasound findings were significantly decreased by ICU discharge, suggesting persistent but slow resolution of at least some COVID-19 lung lesions. Although POCUS identified deep venous thrombosis in less than 20% of patients at the bedside, nearly one-fourth of all patients were found to have computed tomography-proven PE.