Frequency and Distribution of Chest Radiographic Findings in Patients Positive for COVID-19

Radiology. 2020 Aug;296(2):E72-E78. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2020201160. Epub 2020 Mar 27.

Abstract

Background Current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) radiologic literature is dominated by CT, and a detailed description of chest radiography appearances in relation to the disease time course is lacking. Purpose To describe the time course and severity of findings of COVID-19 at chest radiography and correlate these with real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2, nucleic acid. Materials and Methods This is a retrospective study of patients with COVID-19 confirmed by using RT-PCR and chest radiographic examinations who were admitted across four hospitals and evaluated between January and March 2020. Baseline and serial chest radiographs (n = 255) were reviewed with RT-PCR. Correlation with concurrent CT examinations (n = 28) was performed when available. Two radiologists scored each chest radiograph in consensus for consolidation, ground-glass opacity, location, and pleural fluid. A severity index was determined for each lung. The lung scores were summed to produce the final severity score. Results The study was composed of 64 patients (26 men; mean age, 56 years ± 19 [standard deviation]). Of these, 58 patients had initial positive findings with RT-PCR (91%; 95% confidence interval: 81%, 96%), 44 patients had abnormal findings at baseline chest radiography (69%; 95% confidence interval: 56%, 80%), and 38 patients had initial positive findings with RT-PCR testing and abnormal findings at baseline chest radiography (59%; 95% confidence interval: 46%, 71%). Six patients (9%) showed abnormalities at chest radiography before eventually testing positive for COVID-19 with RT-PCR. Sensitivity of initial RT-PCR (91%; 95% confidence interval: 83%, 97%) was higher than that of baseline chest radiography (69%; 95% confidence interval: 56%, 80%) (P = .009). Radiographic recovery (mean, 6 days ± 5) and virologic recovery (mean, 8 days ± 6) were not significantly different (P = .33). Consolidation was the most common finding (30 of 64; 47%) followed by ground-glass opacities (21 of 64; 33%). Abnormalities at chest radiography had a peripheral distribution (26 of 64; 41%) and lower zone distribution (32 of 64; 50%) with bilateral involvement (32 of 64; 50%). Pleural effusion was uncommon (two of 64; 3%). The severity of findings at chest radiography peaked at 10-12 days from the date of symptom onset. Conclusion Findings at chest radiography in patients with coronavirus disease 2019 frequently showed bilateral lower zone consolidation, which peaked at 10-12 days from symptom onset. © RSNA, 2020.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Betacoronavirus*
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques / methods
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnosis
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / complications
  • Pneumonia, Viral / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology
  • Radiographic Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods
  • Young Adult

Supplementary concepts

  • COVID-19
  • COVID-19 diagnostic testing
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2