CT in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): a systematic review of chest CT findings in 4410 adult patients

Eur Radiol. 2020 Nov;30(11):6129-6138. doi: 10.1007/s00330-020-06975-7. Epub 2020 May 30.


Objective: The objective of this systematic review was to evaluate the key imaging manifestations of COVID-19 on chest CT in adult patients by providing a comprehensive review of the published literature.

Methods: We performed a systematic literature search from the PubMed, Google Scholar, Embase, and WHO databases for studies mentioning the chest CT imaging findings of adult COVID-19 patients.

Results: A total of 45 studies comprising 4410 patients were included. Ground glass opacities (GGO), in isolation (50.2%) or coexisting with consolidations (44.2%), were the most common lesions. Distribution of GGOs was most commonly bilateral, peripheral/subpleural, and posterior with predilection for lower lobes. Common ancillary findings included pulmonary vascular enlargement (64%), intralobular septal thickening (60%), adjacent pleural thickening (41.7%), air bronchograms (41.2%), subpleural lines, crazy paving, bronchus distortion, bronchiectasis, and interlobular septal thickening. CT in early follow-up period generally showed an increase in size, number, and density of GGOs, with progression into mixed areas of GGOs plus consolidations and crazy paving, peaking at 10-11 days, before gradually resolving or persisting as patchy fibrosis. While younger adults more commonly had GGOs, extensive/multilobar involvement with consolidations was prevalent in the older population and those with severe disease.

Conclusion: This review describes the imaging features for diagnosis, stratification, and follow-up of COVID-19 patients. The most common CT manifestations are bilateral, peripheral/subpleural, posterior GGOs with or without consolidations with a lower lobe predominance. It is pertinent to be familiar with the various imaging findings to positively impact the management of these patients.

Key points: • Ground glass opacities (GGOs), whether isolated or coexisting with consolidations, in bilateral and subpleural distribution, are the most prevalent chest CT findings in adult COVID-19 patients. • Follow-up CT shows a progression of GGOs into a mixed pattern, reaching a peak at 10-11 days, before gradually resolving or persisting as patchy fibrosis. • Younger people tend to have more GGOs. Older or sicker people tend to have more extensive involvement with consolidations.

Keywords: COVID-19; Diagnostic imaging; Radiology.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnostic imaging*
  • Coronavirus Infections / pathology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / physiopathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / pathology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / physiopathology
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*
  • Young Adult