Significance of the Reverse Halo Sign in Immunocompromised Patients

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2019 Sep;213(3):549-554. doi: 10.2214/AJR.19.21273. Epub 2019 Apr 30.


OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this study is to assess the most common causes of the reverse halo sign (RHS) in immunocompromised patients and to identify clinicoradiologic features that help in achieving a specific diagnosis. MATERIALS AND METHODS. This retrospective study included 70 patients with hematologic malignancy, neutropenia, or history of solid organ transplant or stem cell transplant who had the RHS at chest CT. Absolute neutrophil count, imaging features of the RHS, and presence of pleural effusions were noted and correlated with the specific diagnosis. A decision tree was constructed from predictive imaging features and compared with radiologist assessment for infectious versus noninfectious cause. RESULTS. Infection, including fungal and bacterial pneumonia, was the most common cause of the RHS (66%), followed by organizing pneumonia (26%). Noninfectious causes such as organizing pneumonia were more likely in the solid organ transplant group, whereas infections were more likely in patients with hematologic malignancy and stem cell transplant. Among fungal pneumonias, aspergillosis (20%) was as common as mucormycosis (19%). In univariate analysis, neutropenia, rim thickness, central ground-glass attenuation, and lesion diameter correlated with infectious cause. A decision tree using neutropenia, rim thickness, central ground-glass attenuation, and pleural effusion could differentiate infectious from noninfectious cause with accuracy of 78%, compared with radiologist accuracy of 81%. CONCLUSION. Infections are more likely to cause RHS than noninfectious processes in immunocompromised patients, and aspergillosis may be as likely overall as mucormycosis because of its higher frequency in these patients. A decision tree using clinical and imaging features can help differentiate infectious from noninfectious causes of RHS.

Keywords: CT; aspergillosis; atoll; immunocompromised; infection; mucormycosis; organizing pneumonia; reverse halo sign.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Decision Trees
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host*
  • Lung Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung Diseases / immunology*
  • Lung Diseases, Fungal / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pleural Effusion / diagnostic imaging
  • Pneumonia / diagnostic imaging
  • Radiography, Thoracic / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*