A simple lung ultrasound protocol for the screening of COVID-19 pneumonia in the emergency department
The most relevant manifestation of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is interstitial pneumonia. Several lung ultrasound (US) protocols for pneumonia diagnosis are used in clinical practice, but none has been proposed for COVID-19 patients' screening in the emergency department. We adopted a simplified 6-scan lung US protocol for COVID-19 pneumonia diagnosis (LUSCOP) and compared its sensitivity with high resolution computed tomography (HRCT) in patients suspected for COVID-19, presenting to one Emergency Department from February 21st to March 15th, 2020, during the outbreak burst in northern Italy. Patients were retrospectively enrolled if both LUSCOP protocol and HRCT were performed in the Emergency Department. The sensitivity of LUSCOP protocol and HRCT were compared. COVID-19 pneumonia's final diagnosis was based on real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction from nasal-pharyngeal swab and on clinical data. Out of 150 suspected COVID-19 patients, 131 were included in the study, and 130 had a final diagnosis of COVID-19 pneumonia. The most frequent lung ultrasonographic features were: bilateral B-pattern in 101 patients (77%), B-pattern with subpleural consolidations in 26 (19.8%) and lung consolidations in 2 (1.5%). LUSCOP Protocol was consistent with HRCT in correctly screening 130 out of the 131 COVID-19 pneumonia cases (99.2%). In one case COVID-19 pneumonia was excluded by both HRCT and lung US. LUSCOP protocol showed optimal sensitivity and can be proposed as a simple screening tool for COVID-19 pneumonia diagnosis in the context of outbreak burst areas where prompt isolation of suspected patients is crucial for patients' and operators' safety.