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Lung ultrasound may help predict progression of COVID-19 to severe disease and death

Publicado em 11 fevereiro 2021

Lung ultrasound, commonly used by doctors as a tool for diagnosing lung disease, can help predict the clinical progression of COVID-19 to severe diseases. Read on to know more.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, it has been a mystery why some people who are infected with the virus causing COVID-19 go on to develop severe complications while others get away with few mild symptoms and some others exhibit no symptoms at all. Experts have been trying to figure out how best to identify people who are at risk of severe disease and complications. They have so far zeroed in on a few predictors. Now, experts say that a simple ultrasound of the lungs can also predict this. Lung ultrasound, which is commonly used by doctors as a tool for diagnosing lung disease, can also help predict the clinical progression of COVID-19 to severe diseases in patients. This is what a new study from the Universidade de Sao Paulo in Brazil says. The journal Annals of Intensive Care published this study.

It Can Predict Need For Intensive Care And Risk Of Death

According to researchers, lung ultrasound is a pretty good predictor of the need for intensive care with endotracheal intubation and the risk of death for COVID-19 patients admitted to the emergency room. It can be a simple, cheap way to estimate the prognosis for patients infected by the virus. Apparently, the higher the lung ultrasound score, the greater the risk of admission to an intensive care unit (ICU), intubation and death. 

The Ultrasound Examination Protocol

For the purpose of the study, researchers applied an ultrasound examination protocol covering 12 lung regions in 180 COVID-19 patients undergoing treatment. The researchers performed lung ultrasound exams on the volunteers and calculated their scores on the day of admission to the ER. The scoring methodology, known as the LUS protocol, included examining 12 lung regions in the anterior, lateral, and posterior aspects of the chest wall on both sides. Each region was then evaluated by aeration pattern, with scores ranging from zero to three points according to the worst pattern observed. The final score was the sum of points in all 12 regions, ranging from zero to 36. The results showed that patients scoring 14-16 were most likely to require ICU care, and a fatal outcome was most likely for those with scores above 20. The average LUS was 18.7, with a standard deviation of 6.8. Of the 180 patients enrolled, 109 (60 per cent) were discharged alive, 74 (56 per cent) were treated in the ICU, 52 (39 per cent) were intubated and 61 (33 per cent) died.

What Happens During A Lung Ultrasound?

This is a non-invasive procedure that requires a visit to a hospital or clinic. You will have to remove clothing or jewelry, as it may interfere with the scan. You will be provided with a gown to wear during the procedure when you have to lie down on an examination table on your back or on your side. You may also have to sit with your arms raised. Once you are in position, an ultrasound gel will be applied on your chest and a doctor will use a transducer on that area. This is a device that sends out the ultrasound waves through the area of your body being examined. The sounds are reflected off structures inside the body and an ultrasound machine analyzes the information from the sound waves to create an image of these structures on a monitor.