Empowering the willing: the feasibility of tele-mentored self-performed pleural ultrasound assessment for the surveillance of lung health

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Background: SARS-CoV-2 infection, manifesting as COVID-19 pneumonia, constitutes a global pandemic that is disrupting health-care systems. Most patients who are infected are asymptomatic/pauci-symptomatic can safely self-isolate at home. However, even previously healthy individuals can deteriorate rapidly with life-threatening respiratory failure characterized by disproportionate hypoxemic failure compared to symptoms. Ultrasound findings have been proposed as an early indicator of progression to severe disease. Furthermore, ultrasound is a safe imaging modality that can be performed by novice users remotely guided by experts. We thus examined the feasibility of utilizing common household informatic-technologies to facilitate self-performed lung ultrasound. Methods: A lung ultrasound expert remotely mentored and guided participants to image their own chests with a hand-held ultrasound transducer. The results were evaluated in real time by the mentor, and independently scored by three independent experts [planned a priori]. The primary outcomes were feasibility in obtaining good-quality interpretable images from each anatomic location recommended for COVID-19 diagnosis. Results: Twenty-seven adults volunteered. All could be guided to obtain images of the pleura of the 8 anterior and lateral lung zones (216/216 attempts). These images were rated as interpretable by the 3 experts in 99.8% (647/648) of reviews. Fully imaging one’s posterior region was harder; only 108/162 (66%) of image acquisitions was possible. Of these, 99.3% of images were interpretable in blinded evaluations. However, 52/54 (96%) of participants could image their lower posterior lung bases, where COVID-19 is most common, with 99.3% rated as interpretable. Conclusions: Ultrasound-novice adults at risk for COVID-19 deterioration can be successfully mentored using freely available software and low-cost ultrasound devices to provide meaningful lung ultrasound surveillance of themselves that could potentially stratify asymptomatic/paucisymptomatic patients with early risk factors for serious disease. Further studies examining practical logistics should be conducted. Trial Registration: ID ISRCTN/77929274 on 07/03/2015.




Kirkpatrick, A. W., McKee, J. L., Ball, C. G., Ma, I. W. Y., & Melniker, L. A. (2022). Empowering the willing: the feasibility of tele-mentored self-performed pleural ultrasound assessment for the surveillance of lung health. Ultrasound Journal, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13089-021-00250-6

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