Background: Timing of follow-up chest radiographs for patients with severe community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) is difficult, because little is known about the time to resolution of chest radiograph abnormalities and its correlation with clinical findings. To provide recommendations for short-term, in-hospital chest radiograph follow-up, we studied the rate of resolution of chest radiograph abnormalities in relation to clinical cure, evaluated predictors for delayed resolution, and determined the influence of deterioration of radiographic findings during follow-up on prognosis.
Methods: A total of 288 patients who were hospitalized because of severe CAP were followed up for 28 days in a prospective multicenter study. Clinical data and scores for clinical improvement at day 7 and clinical cure at day 28 were obtained. Chest radiographs were obtained at hospital admission and at days 7 and 28. Resolution and deterioration of chest radiograph findings were determined.
Results: At day 7, 57 (25%) of the patients had resolution of chest radiograph abnormalities, whereas 127 (56%) had clinical improvement (mean difference, 31%; 95% confidence interval, 25%-37%). At day 28, 103 (53%) of the patients had resolution of chest radiograph abnormalities, and 152 (78%) had clinical cure (mean difference, 25%; 95% confidence interval, 19%-31%). Delayed resolution of radiograph abnormalities was independently associated with multilobar disease (odds ratio, 2.87; P < or = .01); dullness to percussion at physical examination (odds ratio, 6.94; P < or = .01); high C-reactive protein level, defined as >200 mg/L (odds ratio, 4.24; P < or = .001); and high respiratory rate at admission, defined as >25 breaths/min (odds ratio, 2.42; P < or = .03). There were no significant differences in outcome at day 28 between patients with and patients without deterioration of chest radiograph findings during the follow-up period (P > .09).
Conclusions: Routine short-term follow-up chest radiographs (obtained <28 days after hospital admission) of hospitalized patients with severe CAP seem to provide no additional clinical value.