A chest radiograph scoring system in patients with severe acute respiratory infection: a validation study

SHIVERS Investigation Team

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: The term severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) encompasses a heterogeneous group of respiratory illnesses. Grading the severity of SARI is currently reliant on indirect disease severity measures such as respiratory and heart rate, and the need for oxygen or intensive care. With the lungs being the primary organ system involved in SARI, chest radiographs (CXRs) are potentially useful for describing disease severity. Our objective was to develop and validate a SARI CXR severity scoring system.

METHODS: We completed validation within an active SARI surveillance project, with SARI defined using the World Health Organization case definition of an acute respiratory infection with a history of fever, or measured fever of ≥ 38 °C; and cough; and with onset within the last 10 days; and requiring hospital admission. We randomly selected 250 SARI cases. Admission CXR findings were categorized as: 1 = normal; 2 = patchy atelectasis and/or hyperinflation and/or bronchial wall thickening; 3 = focal consolidation; 4 = multifocal consolidation; and 5 = diffuse alveolar changes. Initially, four radiologists scored CXRs independently. Subsequently, a pediatrician, physician, two residents, two medical students, and a research nurse independently scored CXR reports. Inter-observer reliability was determined using a weighted Kappa (κ) for comparisons between radiologists; radiologists and clinicians; and clinicians. Agreement was defined as moderate (κ > 0.4-0.6), good (κ > 0.6-0.8) and very good (κ > 0.8-1.0).

RESULTS: Agreement between the two pediatric radiologists was very good (κ = 0.83, 95% CI 0.65-1.00) and between the two adult radiologists was good (κ = 0.75, 95% CI 0.57-0. 93). Agreement of the clinicians with the radiologists was moderate-to-good (pediatrician:κ = 0.65; pediatric resident:κ = 0.69; physician:κ = 0.68; resident:κ = 0.67; research nurse:κ = 0.49, medical students: κ = 0.53 and κ = 0.56). Agreement between clinicians was good-to-very good (pediatrician vs. physician:κ = 0.85; vs. pediatric resident:κ = 0.81; vs. medicine resident:κ = 0.76; vs. research nurse:κ = 0.75; vs. medical students:κ = 0.63 and 0.66). Following review of discrepant CXR report scores by clinician pairs, κ values for radiologist-clinician agreement ranged from 0.59 to 0.70 and for clinician-clinician agreement from 0.97 to 0.99.

CONCLUSIONS: This five-point CXR scoring tool, suitable for use in poorly- and well-resourced settings and by clinicians of varying experience levels, reliably describes SARI severity. The resulting numerical data enables epidemiological comparisons of SARI severity between different countries and settings.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Medical Imaging
Pages (from-to)61
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiography, Thoracic/standards
  • Respiratory Tract Infections/diagnostic imaging
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Severity of Illness Index


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