Comparison of admission chest computed tomography and lung ultrasound performance for diagnosis of COVID-19 pneumonia in populations with different disease prevalence

PURPOSE Chest computed tomography (CT) is considered a reliable imaging tool for COVID-19 pneumonia diagnosis, while lung ultrasound (LUS) has emerged as a potential alternative to characterize lung involvement. The aim of the study was to compare diagnostic performance of admission chest CT and LUS for the diagnosis of COVID-19.
METHODS We included patients admitted to emergency department between February 21-March 6, 2020 (high prevalence group, HP) and between March 30-April 13, 2020 (moderate prevalence group, MP) undergoing LUS and chest CT within 12 h. Chest CT was considered positive in case of'indeterminate'/'typical'pattern for COVID-19 by RSNA classification system. At LUS, thickened pleural line with ≥ three B-lines at least in one zone of the 12 explored was considered positive. Sensitivity, specificity, PPV, NPV, and AUC were calculated for CT and LUS against real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and serology as reference standard.
RESULTS The study included 486 patients (males 61 %; median age, 70 years): 247 patients in HP (COVID-19 prevalence 94 %) and 239 patients in MP (COVID-19 prevalence 45 %). In HP and MP respectively, sensitivity, specificity, PPV, and NPV were 90-95 %, 43-69 %, 96-72 %, 20-95 % for CT and 94-93 %, 7-31 %, 94-52 %, 7-83 % for LUS. CT demonstrated better performance than LUS in diagnosis of COVID-19, both in HP (AUC 0.75 vs 0.51; P < 0.001) and MP (AUC 0.85 vs 0.62; P < 0.001).
CONCLUSIONS Admission chest CT shows better performance than LUS for COVID-19 diagnosis, at varying disease prevalence. LUS is highly sensitive, but not specific for COVID-19.

as reported in: Eur J Radiol. 2020 Dec; 133 109344