Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): A Systematic Review of Imaging Findings in 919 Patients

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2020 Jul;215(1):87-93. doi: 10.2214/AJR.20.23034. Epub 2020 Mar 14.


OBJECTIVE. Available information on CT features of the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is scattered in different publications, and a cohesive literature review has yet to be compiled. MATERIALS AND METHODS. This article includes a systematic literature search of PubMed, Embase (Elsevier), Google Scholar, and the World Health Organization database. RESULTS. Known features of COVID-19 on initial CT include bilateral multilobar ground-glass opacification (GGO) with a peripheral or posterior distribution, mainly in the lower lobes and less frequently within the right middle lobe. Atypical initial imaging presentation of consolidative opacities superimposed on GGO may be found in a smaller number of cases, mainly in the elderly population. Septal thickening, bronchiectasis, pleural thickening, and subpleural involvement are some of the less common findings, mainly in the later stages of the disease. Pleural effusion, pericardial effusion, lymphadenopathy, cavitation, CT halo sign, and pneumothorax are uncommon but may be seen with disease progression. Follow-up CT in the intermediate stage of disease shows an increase in the number and size of GGOs and progressive transformation of GGO into multifocal consolidative opacities, septal thickening, and development of a crazy paving pattern, with the greatest severity of CT findings visible around day 10 after the symptom onset. Acute respiratory distress syndrome is the most common indication for transferring patients with COVID-19 to the ICU and the major cause of death in this patient population. Imaging patterns corresponding to clinical improvement usually occur after week 2 of the disease and include gradual resolution of consolidative opacities and decrease in the number of lesions and involved lobes. CONCLUSION. This systematic review of current literature on COVID-19 provides insight into the initial and follow-up CT characteristics of the disease.

Keywords: 2019-nCoV; COVID-19; CT scan; coronavirus; influenza; outbreak; pneumonia; radiology; systematic review; viral.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications*
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / complications*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / diagnostic imaging*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed