Lung Ultrasound in the Diagnosis of COVID-19 Pneumonia: Not Always and Not Only What Is COVID-19 “Glitters”

The CSS-COVID-19 Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In the current coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, lung ultrasound (LUS) has been extensively employed to evaluate lung involvement and proposed as a useful screening tool for early diagnosis in the emergency department (ED), prehospitalization triage, and treatment monitoring of COVID-19 pneumonia. However, the actual effectiveness of LUS in characterizing lung involvement in COVID-19 is still unclear. Our aim was to evaluate LUS diagnostic performance in assessing or ruling out COVID-19 pneumonia when compared with chest CT (gold standard) in a population of SARS-CoV-2-infected patients. Methods: A total of 260 consecutive RT-PCR confirmed SARS-CoV-2-infected patients were included in the study. All the patients underwent both chest CT scan and concurrent LUS at admission, within the first 6–12 h of hospital stay. Results: Chest CT scan was considered positive when showing a “typical” or “indeterminate” pattern for COVID-19, according to the RSNA classification system. Disease prevalence for COVID-19 pneumonia was 90.77%. LUS demonstrated a sensitivity of 56.78% in detecting lung alteration. The concordance rate for the assessment of abnormalities by both methods increased in the case of peripheral distribution and middle-lower lung location of lesions and in cases of more severe lung involvement. A total of nine patients had a “false-positive” LUS examination. Alternative diagnosis included chronic heart disease (six cases), bronchiectasis (two cases), and subpleural emphysema (one case). LUS specificity was 62.50%. Collateral findings indicative of overlapping conditions at chest CT were recorded also in patients with COVID-19 pneumonia and appeared distributed with increasing frequency passing from the group with mild disease (17 cases) to that with severe disease (40 cases). Conclusions: LUS does not seem to be an adequate tool for screening purposes in the ED, due to the risk of missing some lesions and/or to underestimate the actual extent of the disease. Furthermore, the not specificity of LUS implies the possibility to erroneously classify pre-existing or overlapping conditions as COVID-19 pneumonia. It seems more safe to integrate a positive LUS examination with clinical, epidemiological, laboratory, and radiologic findings to suggest a “virosis.” Viral testing confirmation is always required.

Original languageEnglish
Article number707602
JournalFrontiers in Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Jul 19 2021


  • comorbidities
  • computed tomography
  • COVID-19
  • lung ultrasound
  • screening method
  • sensitivity
  • specificity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Lung Ultrasound in the Diagnosis of COVID-19 Pneumonia: Not Always and Not Only What Is COVID-19 “Glitters”'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this