Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Mar 27;18(7):3481. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18073481.
BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic rapidly strained healthcare systems worldwide. The reference standard for diagnosis is a positive reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test, but results are not immediate and sensibility is variable.
AIM: To evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of lung ultrasound compared to chest X-ray for COVID-19 pneumonia.
DESIGN AND SETTING: A retrospective analysis of symptomatic patients admitted into one primary care centre in Spain between March and September 2020.
METHOD: Patients' chest X-rays and lung ultrasounds were categorized as normal or pathologic. RT-PCR confirmed COVID-19 infection. Pathologic lung ultrasound images were further categorized as showing either local or diffuse interstitial disease. McNemar and Fisher tests were used to compare diagnostic accuracy.
RESULTS: Most of the 212 patients presented fever at admission, either as a standalone symptom (37.74% of patients) or together with others (72.17% of patients). The positive predictive value of the lung ultrasound was 90% for the diffuse interstitial pattern and 46.92% for local pattern. The lung ultrasound had a significantly higher sensitivity (82.75%) (p < 0.001), but lower specificity (71%) than the chest X-ray (54.02% and 86%, respectively) (p = 0.008) for identifying interstitial lung disease. Moreover, sensitivity of the lung ultrasound for severe interstitial disease was 100%, and was significantly higher than the chest X-ray (58.33%) (p = 0.002).
CONCLUSION: The lung ultrasound is more accurate than the chest X-ray for identifying patients with COVID-19 pneumonia and it is especially useful for those presenting diffuse interstitial disease.