Purpose: To study the association between ultrasound cortical thickness in reactive post-vaccination lymph nodes and the elicited humoral response and to evaluate the performance of cortical thickness as a predictor of vaccine effectiveness in patients with and without a previous history of COVID-19 infection.
Methods: A total of 156 healthy volunteers were recruited and followed prospectively after receiving two COVID-19 vaccination doses using different protocols. Within a week after receiving the second dose, an axillary ultrasound of the ipsilateral vaccinated arm was performed, and serial post-vaccination serologic tests (PVST) were collected. Maximum cortical thickness was chosen as a nodal feature to analyze association with humoral immunity. Total antibodies quantified during consecutive PVST in previously-infected patients and in coronavirus-naïve volunteers were compared (Mann-Whitney U test). The association between hyperplastic-reactive lymph nodes and effective humoral response was studied (odds ratio). The performance of cortical thickness in detecting vaccination effectiveness was evaluated (area under the ROC curve).
Results: Significantly higher values for total antibodies were observed in volunteers with a previous history of COVID-19 infection (p < 0.001). The odds ratio associating immunized coronavirus-naïve volunteers after 90 and 180 days of the second dose with a cortical thickness ¿ 3 mm was statistically significant (95% CI 1.52-6.97 and 95% CI 1.47-7.29, respectively). The best AUC result was obtained comparing antibody secretion of coronavirus-naïve volunteers at 180 days (0.738).
Conclusions: Ultrasound cortical thickness of reactive lymph nodes in coronavirus-naïve patients may reflect antibody production and a long-term effective humoral response elicited by vaccination.
Clinical relevance statement: In coronavirus-naïve patients, ultrasound cortical thickness of post-vaccination reactive lymphadenopathy shows a positive association with protective antibody titers against SARS-CoV-2, especially in the long term, providing new insights into previous publications.
Key points: ¿ Hyperplastic lymphadenopathy was frequently observed after COVID-19 vaccination. ¿ Ultrasound cortical thickness of reactive post-vaccine lymph nodes may reflect a long-term effective humoral response in coronavirus-naïve patients.