Evolution of CT findings in patients with mild COVID-19 pneumonia

Eur Radiol. 2020 Sep;30(9):4865-4873. doi: 10.1007/s00330-020-06823-8. Epub 2020 Apr 15.


Objectives: To delineate the evolution of CT findings in patients with mild COVID-19 pneumonia.

Methods: CT images and medical records of 88 patients with confirmed mild COVID-19 pneumonia, a baseline CT, and at least one follow-up CT were retrospectively reviewed. CT features including lobar distribution and presence of ground glass opacities (GGO), consolidation, and linear opacities were analyzed on per-patient basis during each of five time intervals spanning the 3 weeks after disease onset. Total severity scores were calculated.

Results: Of patients, 85.2% had travel history to Wuhan or known contact with infected individuals. The most common symptoms were fever (84.1%) and cough (56.8%). The baseline CT was obtained on average 5 days from symptom onset. Four patients (4.5%) had negative initial CT. Significant differences were found among the time intervals in the proportion of pulmonary lesions that are (1) pure GGO, (2) mixed attenuation, (3) mixed attenuation with linear opacities, (4) consolidation with linear opacities, and (5) pure consolidation. The majority of patients had involvement of ≥ 3 lobes. Bilateral involvement was more prevalent than unilateral involvement. The proportions of patients observed to have pure GGO or GGO and consolidation decreased over time while the proportion of patients with GGO and linear opacities increased. Total severity score showed an increasing trend in the first 2 weeks.

Conclusions: While bilateral GGO are predominant features, CT findings changed during different time intervals in the 3 weeks after symptom onset in patients with COVID-19.

Key points: • Four of 88 (4.5%) patients with COVID-19 had negative initial CT. • Majority of COVID-19 patients had abnormal CT findings in ≥ 3 lobes. • A proportion of patients with pure ground glass opacities decreased over the 3 weeks after symptom onset.

Keywords: Coronavirus; Pneumonia; Tomography.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / diagnostic imaging*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Travel-Related Illness
  • Young Adult