Radiol Cardiothorac Imaging. 2020 Sep 24;2(5):e200337. doi: 10.1148/ryct.2020200337. eCollection 2020 Oct.
PURPOSE: To evaluate the sensitivity, specificity, and severity of chest x-rays (CXR) and chest CTs over time in confirmed COVID-19+ and COVID-19- patients and to evaluate determinants of false negatives.
METHODS: In a retrospective multi-institutional study, 254 RT-PCR verified COVID-19+ patients with at least one CXR or chest CT were compared with 254 age- and gender-matched COVID-19- controls. CXR severity, sensitivity, and specificity were determined with respect to time after onset of symptoms; sensitivity and specificity for chest CTs without time stratification. Performance of serial CXRs against CTs was determined by comparing area under the receiver operating characteristic curves (AUC). A multivariable logistic regression analysis was performed to assess factors related to false negative CXR.
RESULTS: COVID-19+ CXR severity and sensitivity increased with time (from sensitivity of 55% at ≤2 days to 79% at >11 days; p<0.001 for trends of both severity and sensitivity) whereas CXR specificity decreased over time (from 83% to 70%, p=0.02). Serial CXR demonstrated increase in AUC (first CXR AUC=0.79, second CXR=0.87, p=0.02), and second CXR approached the accuracy of CT (AUC=0.92, p=0.11). COVID-19 sensitivity of first CXR, second CXR, and CT was 73%, 83%, and 88%, whereas specificity was 80%, 73%, and 77%, respectively. Normal and mild severity CXR findings were the largest factor behind false-negative CXRs (40% normal and 87% combined normal/mild). Young age and African-American ethnicity increased false negative rates.
CONCLUSION: CXR sensitivity in COVID-19 detection increases with time, and serial CXRs of COVID-19+ patients has accuracy approaching that of chest CT.