Computed tomography or chest X-ray to assess pulmonary congestion in dyspnoeic patients with acute heart failure

Kristina Miger*, Anne Sophie Overgaard Olesen, Johannes Grand, Andreas Fabricius-Bjerre, Ahmad Sajadieh, Nis Høst, Nanna Køber, Annemette Abild, Lars Pedersen, Hans Henrik Lawaetz Schultz, Christian Torp-Pedersen, Mikael Ploug Boesen, Jens Jakob Thune, Olav W Nielsen

*Corresponding author for this work


AIMS: While computed tomography (CT) is widely acknowledged as superior to chest radiographs for acute diagnostics, its efficacy in diagnosing acute heart failure (AHF) remains unexplored. This prospective study included consecutive patients with dyspnoea undergoing simultaneous low-dose chest CT (LDCT) and chest radiographs. Here, we aimed to determine if LDCT is superior to chest radiographs to confirm pulmonary congestion in dyspnoeic patients with suspected AHF.

METHODS AND RESULTS: An observational, prospective study, including dyspnoeic patients from the emergency department. All patients underwent concurrent clinical examination, laboratory tests, echocardiogram, chest radiographs, and LDCT. The primary efficacy measure to compare the two radiological methods was conditional odds ratio (cOR). The primary outcome was adjudicated AHF, ascertained by comprehensive expert consensus. The secondary outcome, echo-bnp AHF, was an objective AHF diagnosis based on echocardiographic cardiac dysfunction, elevated cardiac filling pressure, loop diuretic administration, and NT-pro brain natriuretic peptide > 300 pg/mL. Of 228 dyspnoeic patients, 64 patients (28%) had adjudicated AHF, and 79 patients (35%) had echo-bnp AHF. Patients with AHF were older (78 years vs. 73 years), had lower left ventricular ejection fraction (36% vs. 55%), had higher elevated left ventricular filling pressures (98% vs. 18%), and had higher NT-pro brain natriuretic peptide levels (3628 pg/mL vs. 470 pg/mL). The odds to diagnose adjudicated AHF and echo-bnp AHF were up to four times greater using LDCT (cOR: 3.89 [2.15, 7.06] and cOR: 2.52 [1.45, 4.38], respectively). For each radiologic sign of pulmonary congestion, the LDCT provided superior or equivalent results as the chest radiographs, and the interrater agreement was higher using LDCT (kappa 0.88 [95% CI: 0.81, 0.95] vs. 0.73 [95% CI: 0.63, 0.82]). As first-line imaging modality, LDCT will find one additional adjudicated AHF in 12.5 patients and prevent one false-positive in 20 patients. Similar results were demonstrated for echo-bnp AHF.

CONCLUSIONS: In consecutive dyspnoeic patients admitted to the emergency department, LDCT is significantly better than chest radiographs in detecting pulmonary congestion.

Original languageEnglish
JournalESC Heart Failure
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)1163-1173
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


  • Dyspnea/diagnosis
  • Heart Failure
  • Humans
  • Natriuretic Peptide, Brain
  • Prospective Studies
  • Stroke Volume
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Ventricular Function, Left
  • X-Rays
  • Pulmonary congestion
  • Chest radiographs
  • Dyspnoea
  • Acute heart failure
  • Low dose chest CT


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