Purpose: To analyze the application of a lung ultrasound (LUS)-based diagnostic approach to patients suspected of COVID-19, combining the LUS likelihood of COVID-19 pneumonia with patient’s symptoms and clinical history.
Methods: This is an international multicenter observational study in 20 US and European hospitals. Patients suspected of COVID-19 were tested with reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) swab test and had an LUS examination. We identified three clinical phenotypes based on pre-existing chronic diseases (mixed phenotype), and on the presence (severe phenotype) or absence (mild phenotype) of signs and/or symptoms of respiratory failure at presentation. We defined the LUS likelihood of COVID-19 pneumonia according to four different patterns: high (HighLUS), intermediate (IntLUS), alternative (AltLUS), and low (LowLUS) probability. The combination of patterns and phenotypes with RT-PCR results was described and analyzed.
Results: We studied 1462 patients, classified in mild (n = 400), severe (n = 727), and mixed (n = 335) phenotypes. HighLUS and IntLUS showed an overall sensitivity of 90.2% (95% CI 88.23-91.97%) in identifying patients with positive RT-PCR, with higher values in the mixed (94.7%) and severe phenotype (97.1%), and even higher in those patients with objective respiratory failure (99.3%). The HighLUS showed a specificity of 88.8% (CI 85.55-91.65%) that was higher in the mild phenotype (94.4%; CI 90.0-97.0%). At multivariate analysis, the HighLUS was a strong independent predictor of RT-PCR positivity (odds ratio 4.2, confidence interval 2.6-6.7, p < 0.0001).
Conclusion: Combining LUS patterns of probability with clinical phenotypes at presentation can rapidly identify those patients with or without COVID-19 pneumonia at bedside. This approach could support and expedite patients’ management during a pandemic surge.