Chest CT Features of COVID-19 in Rome, Italy

Radiology. 2020 Apr 3;201237. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2020201237. Online ahead of print.


Background The standard for diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 virus is reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test, but chest CT may play a complimentary role in the early detection of COVID-19 pneumonia. Purpose To investigate CT features of patients with COVID-19 in Rome, Italy, and to compare the accuracy of CT with RT-PCR. Methods In this prospective study from March 4, 2020, until March 19, 2020, consecutive patients with suspected COVID-19 infection and respiratory symptoms were enrolled. Exclusion criteria were: chest CT with contrast medium performed for vascular indications, patients who refused chest CT or hospitalization, and severe CT motion artifact. All patients underwent RT-PCR and chest CT. Diagnostic performance of CT was calculated using RT-PCR as reference. Chest CT features were calculated in a subgroup of RT-PCR-positive and CT-positive patients. CT features of hospitalized patients and patient in home isolation were compared by using Pearson chi squared test. Results Our study population comprised 158 consecutive study participants (83 male and 75 female, mean age 57 y ±17). Fever was observed in 97/158 (61%), cough in 88/158 (56%), dyspnea in 52/158 (33%), lymphocytopenia in 95/158 (60%), increased C-reactive protein level in 139/158 (88%), and elevated lactate dehydrogenase in 128/158 (81%) study participants. Sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of CT were 97% (60/62)[95% IC, 88-99%], 56% (54/96)[95% IC,45-66%] and 72% (114/158)[95% IC 64-78%], respectively. In the subgroup of RT-PCR-positive and CT-positive patients, ground-glass opacities (GGO) were present in 58/58 (100%), multilobe and posterior involvement were both present in 54/58 (93%), bilateral pneumonia in 53/58 (91%), and subsegmental vessel enlargement (> 3 mm) in 52/58 (89%) of study participants. Conclusion The typical pattern of COVID-19 pneumonia in Rome, Italy, was peripherally ground-glass opacities with multilobe and posterior involvement, bilateral distribution, and subsegmental vessel enlargement (> 3 mm). Chest CT sensitivity was high (97%) but with lower specificity (56%).