Temporal Changes of CT Findings in 90 Patients with COVID-19 Pneumonia: A Longitudinal Study

Radiology. 2020 Aug;296(2):E55-E64. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2020200843. Epub 2020 Mar 19.


Background CT may play a central role in the diagnosis and management of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pneumonia. Purpose To perform a longitudinal study to analyze the serial CT findings over time in patients with COVID-19 pneumonia. Materials and Methods During January 16 to February 17, 2020, 90 patients (33 men, 57 women; mean age, 45 years) with COVID-19 pneumonia were prospectively enrolled and followed up until being discharged, death, or the end of the study. A total of 366 CT scans were acquired and reviewed by two groups of radiologists for the patterns and distribution of lung abnormalities, total CT scores, and number of zones involved. Those features were analyzed for temporal change. Results CT scores and number of zones involved progressed rapidly, peaked during illness days 6-11 (median CT score, 5; median number of zones involved, five), and were followed by persistence of high levels. The predominant pattern of abnormalities after symptom onset was ground-glass opacity (35 of 78 scans [45%] to 49 of 79 scans [62%] in different periods). The percentage of mixed pattern peaked on illness days 12-17 (30 of 78 scans [38%]) and became the second most predominant pattern thereafter. Pure ground-glass opacity was the most prevalent subtype of ground-glass opacity after symptom onset (20 of 50 scans [40%] to 20 of 28 scans [71%]). The percentage of ground-glass opacity with irregular linear opacity peaked on illness days 6-11 (14 of 50 scans [28%]) and became the second most prevalent subtype thereafter. The distribution of lesions was predominantly bilateral and subpleural. Sixty-six of the 70 patients discharged (94%) had residual disease on final CT scans (median CT score, 4; median number of zones involved, four), with ground-glass opacity (42 of 70 patients [60%]) and pure ground-glass opacity (31 of 42 patients [74%]) the most common pattern and subtype. Conclusion The extent of lung abnormalities at CT peaked during illness days 6-11. The temporal changes of the diverse CT manifestations followed a specific pattern, which might indicate the progression and recovery of the illness. © RSNA, 2020 Online supplemental material is available for this article.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques / methods
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnosis
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnostic imaging*
  • Coronavirus Infections / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Patient Discharge
  • Pneumonia, Viral / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / pathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radiographic Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Time Factors
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods