Imaging Findings in Coronavirus Infections: SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2

Br J Radiol. 2020 Jul 6;20200515. doi: 10.1259/bjr.20200515. Online ahead of print.


During the first two decades of the 21st century, there have been three coronavirus infection outbreaks raising global health concerns by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and the SARS-CoV-2. Although the reported imaging findings of coronavirus infection are variable and non-specific, the most common initial chest radiograph (CXR) and CT findings are ground-glass opacities and consolidation with peripheral predominance and eventually spread to involve both lungs as the disease progresses. These findings can be explained by the immune pathogenesis of coronavirus infection causing diffuse alveolar damage. Although it is insensitive in mild or early coronavirus infection, the CXR remains as the first-line and the most commonly used imaging modality. That is because it is rapid and easily accessible and helpful for monitoring patient progress during treatment. CT is more sensitive to detect early parenchymal lung abnormalities and disease progression, and can provide an alternative diagnosis. In this pictorial review, various coronavirus infection cases are presented to provide imaging spectrums of coronavirus infection and present differences in imaging among them or from other viral infections, and to discuss the role of imaging in viral infection outbreaks.