Standard and pocket-size lung ultrasound devices can detect interstitial lung disease in rheumatoid arthritis patients

Rheumatology (Oxford). 2014 Aug;53(8):1497-503. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/keu033. Epub 2014 Mar 31.


Objectives: Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is a frequent extra-articular manifestation of RA associated with increased mortality. High-resolution CT (HRCT) is used for diagnosis and follow-up, but its accuracy is counterbalanced by high costs and radiological risk. In the presence of ILD, lung US (LUS) detects vertical artefacts called B-lines. The aims of the present study were to evaluate the accuracy of LUS in the diagnosis of ILD in RA and to validate the use of a pocket-size US device (PS-USD) as a screening tool.

Methods: LUS was performed with standard equipment by a trained physician through longitudinal scans following anatomical lines: 72 segments were considered (28 anteriorly and 44 posteriorly) and B-lines were counted in each segment. A B-lines score >10 identified a positive examination (presence of ILD). A second LUS session for positive/negative judgment was performed by a short-trained physician using a PS-USD.

Results: Thirty-nine patients were studied. The sensitivity and specificity of standard LUS vs HRCT were 92% and 56%, respectively. The B-line score was significantly correlated with HRCT score (r = 0.806). A total of 29 patients were studied with a PS-USD. Sensitivity and specificity for PS-USD vs HRCT were 89% and 50%.

Conclusion: The sensitivity of LUS in the detection of ILD supports its use as a screening test for ILD in RA patients, even in the ambulatory setting with a PS-USD. The strong correlation between echographic and HRCT scores indicates LUS is a valid tool for grading and follow-up of ILD.

Keywords: B-lines; interstitial lung disease; lung ultrasound; pocket-size ultrasound device; rheumatoid arthritis.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / complications
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / complications
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / diagnostic imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Ultrasonography