Ultrasound Med Biol. 2020 Jul 15:S0301-5629(20)30302-1. doi: 10.1016/j.ultrasmedbio.2020.07.005. Online ahead of print.
Lung ultrasound (LUS) has recently been advocated as an accurate tool to diagnose coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pneumonia. However, reports on its use are based mainly on hypothesis studies, case reports or small retrospective case series, while the prognostic role of LUS in COVID-19 patients has not yet been established. We conducted a prospective study aimed at assessing the ability of LUS to predict mortality and intensive care unit admission of COVID-19 patients evaluated in a tertiary level emergency department. Patients in our sample had a median of 6 lung areas with pathologic findings (inter-quartile range [IQR]: 6, range: 0-14), defined as a score different from 0. The median rate of lung areas involved was 71% (IQR: 64%, range: 0-100), while the median average score was 1.14 (IQR: 0.93, range: 0-3). A higher rate of pathologic lung areas and a higher average score were significantly associated with death, with an estimated difference of 40.5% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 4%-68%, p = 0.01) and of 0.47 (95% CI: 0.06-0.93, p = 0.02), respectively. Similarly, the same parameters were associated with a significantly higher risk of intensive care unit admission with estimated differences of 29% (95% CI: 8%-50%, p = 0.008) and 0.47 (95% CI: 0.05-0.93, p = 0.02), respectively. Our study indicates that LUS is able to detect COVID-19 pneumonia and to predict, during the first evaluation in the emergency department, patients at risk for intensive care unit admission and death.