Infection with the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) may remain asymptomatic, leading to under-recognition of the related disease, coronavirus disease, 2019 (COVID-19), and to incidental findings in nuclear imaging procedures performed for standard clinical indications. Here, we report about our local experience in a region with high COVID-19 prevalence and dynamically increasing infection rates. Methods: Within the 8-d period of March 16-24, 2020, hybrid imaging studies of asymptomatic patients who underwent 18F-FDG PET/CT or 131I SPECT/CT for standard oncologic indications at our institution in Brescia, Italy, were analyzed for findings suggestive of COVID-19. The presence, radiologic features, and metabolic activity of interstitial pneumonia were identified, correlated with the subsequent short-term clinical course, and described in a case series. Results: Six of 65 patients (9%) who underwent PET/CT for various malignancies showed unexpected signs of interstitial pneumonia on CT and elevated regional 18F-FDG avidity. Additionally, 1 of 12 patients who received radioiodine for differentiated thyroid carcinoma also showed interstitial pneumonia on SPECT/CT. Five of 7 patients had subsequent proof of COVID-19 by reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. The remaining 2 patients were not tested immediately but underwent quarantine and careful monitoring. Conclusion: Incidental findings suggestive of COVID-19 may not be infrequent in hybrid imaging of asymptomatic patients in regions with an expansive spread of SARS-CoV-2. Nuclear medicine services should prepare accordingly.
Keywords: COVID-19; PET/CT; nuclear medicine; pneumonia.
© 2020 by the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging.