To evaluate diagnostic accuracy of conventional radiography (CXR) and machine learning enhanced CXR (mlCXR) for the detection and quantification of disease-extent in COVID-19 patients compared to chest-CT.
Real-time polymerase chain reaction (rt-PCR)-confirmed COVID-19-patients undergoing CXR from March to April 2020 together with COVID-19 negative patients as control group were retrospectively included. Two independent readers assessed CXR and mlCXR images for presence, disease extent and type (consolidation vs. ground-glass opacities (GGOs) of COVID-19-pneumonia. Further, readers had to assign confidence levels to their diagnosis. CT obtained ≤ 36 h from acquisition of CXR served as standard of reference. Inter-reader agreement, sensitivity for detection and disease extent of COVID-19-pneumonia compared to CT was calculated. McNemar test was used to test for significant differences.
Sixty patients (21 females; median age 61 years, range 38-81 years) were included. Inter-reader agreement improved from good to excellent when mlCXR instead of CXR was used (k = 0.831 vs. k = 0.742). Sensitivity for pneumonia detection improved from 79.5% to 92.3%, however, on the cost of specificity 100% vs. 71.4% (p = 0.031). Overall, sensitivity for the detection of consolidation was higher than for GGO (37.5% vs. 70.4%; respectively). No differences could be found in disease extent estimation between mlCXR and CXR, even though the detection of GGO could be improved. Diagnostic confidence was better on mlCXR compared to CXR (p = 0.013).
In line with the current literature, the sensitivity for detection and quantification of COVID-19-pneumonia was moderate with CXR and could be improved when mlCXR was used for image interpretation.