Chest CT score in COVID-19 patients: correlation with disease severity and short-term prognosis

Eur Radiol. 2020 Dec;30(12):6808-6817. doi: 10.1007/s00330-020-07033-y. Epub 2020 Jul 4.


Objectives: To correlate a CT-based semi-quantitative score of pulmonary involvement in COVID-19 pneumonia with clinical staging of disease and laboratory findings. We also aimed to investigate whether CT findings may be predictive of patients' outcome.

Methods: From March 6 to March 22, 2020, 130 symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 patients were enrolled for this single-center analysis and chest CT examinations were retrospectively evaluated. A semi-quantitative CT score was calculated based on the extent of lobar involvement (0:0%; 1, < 5%; 2:5-25%; 3:26-50%; 4:51-75%; 5, > 75%; range 0-5; global score 0-25). Data were matched with clinical stages and laboratory findings. Survival curves and univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to evaluate the role of CT score as a predictor of patients' outcome.

Results: Ground glass opacities were predominant in early-phase (≤ 7 days since symptoms' onset), while crazy-paving pattern, consolidation, and fibrosis characterized late-phase disease (> 7 days). CT score was significantly higher in critical and severe than in mild stage (p < 0.0001), and among late-phase than early-phase patients (p < 0.0001). CT score was significantly correlated with CRP (p < 0.0001, r = 0.6204) and D-dimer (p < 0.0001, r = 0.6625) levels. A CT score of ≥ 18 was associated with an increased mortality risk and was found to be predictive of death both in univariate (HR, 8.33; 95% CI, 3.19-21.73; p < 0.0001) and multivariate analysis (HR, 3.74; 95% CI, 1.10-12.77; p = 0.0348).

Conclusions: Our preliminary data suggest the potential role of CT score for predicting the outcome of SARS-CoV-2 patients. CT score is highly correlated with laboratory findings and disease severity and might be beneficial to speed-up diagnostic workflow in symptomatic cases.

Key points: • CT score is positively correlated with age, inflammatory biomarkers, severity of clinical categories, and disease phases. • A CT score ≥ 18 has shown to be highly predictive of patient's mortality in short-term follow-up. • Our multivariate analysis demonstrated that CT parenchymal assessment may more accurately reflect short-term outcome, providing a direct visualization of anatomic injury compared with non-specific inflammatory biomarkers.

Keywords: COVID-19; Pneumonia; Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2; Tomography, X-ray computed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / diagnosis*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*