Objective: To determine clinical characteristics associated with false-negative severe acute respiratory coronavirus virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) test results to help inform coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) testing practices in the inpatient setting.
Design: A retrospective observational cohort study.
Setting: Tertiary-care facility.
Patients: All patients 2 years of age and older tested for SARS-CoV-2 between March 14, 2020, and April 30, 2020, who had at least 2 SARS-CoV-2 reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction tests within 7 days.
Methods: The primary outcome measure was a false-negative testing episode, which we defined as an initial negative test followed by a positive test within the subsequent 7 days. Data collected included symptoms, demographics, comorbidities, vital signs, labs, and imaging studies. Logistic regression was used to model associations between clinical variables and false-negative SARS-CoV-2 test results.
Results: Of the 1,009 SARS-CoV-2 test results included in the analysis, 4.0% were false-negative results. In multivariable regression analysis, compared with true-negative test results, false-negative test results were associated with anosmia or ageusia (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 8.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.4-50.5; P = .02), having had a COVID-19-positive contact (aOR, 10.5; 95% CI, 4.3-25.4; P < .0001), and having an elevated lactate dehydrogenase level (aOR, 3.3; 95% CI, 1.2-9.3; P = .03). Demographics, symptom duration, other laboratory values, and abnormal chest imaging were not significantly associated with false-negative test results in our multivariable analysis.
Conclusions: Clinical features can help predict which patients are more likely to have false-negative SARS-CoV-2 test results.