Positive Chest CT Features in Patients With COVID-19 Pneumonia and Negative Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction Test

Cureus. 2020 Aug 22;12(8):e9942. doi: 10.7759/cureus.9942.


Objectives Clinically suspicious novel coronavirus (COVID-19) lung pneumonia can be observed typically on computed tomography (CT) chest scans even in patients with a negative real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test. The purpose of the study was to describe the CT imaging findings of five patients with negative RT-PCR results on initial and repeated testing but a high radiological suspicion of COVID-19 pneumonia. Methods Out of 19 clinically and/or radiologically diagnosed COVID-19 patients from our institution, five patients were selected for our study who had typical findings of COVID-19 on CT scan despite two negative RT-PCR results. Two district general hospital radiologists reviewed the chest CT images without prior knowledge of the RT-PCR test results. Scans were analyzed for the density of opacification and the distribution of disease. Results Out of 19 patients, five (26%) had initial negative RT-PCR test findings but positive CT chest features consistent with COVID-19. All patients had typical CT imaging findings of COVID-19. These included one patient with purely ground-glass opacities (GGO) and four patients with mixed GGO and consolidation. The typical distribution of parenchymal involvement was bilateral, posterior, and peripheral. Of the five patients with negative RT-PCR and positive CT findings, the range of CT severity score was 5 to 14. The median score, seen in three patients, was a score of 5, which corresponded to mild disease. One patient had a score of 8, corresponding to moderate disease, and one patient had severe disease with a score of 14. Conclusion Lung parenchymal changes related to COVID-19 can be seen on chest CT clearly despite repeated RT-PCR negative results.

Keywords: 2019-ncov; chest ct; covid-19; novel coronavirus; rt-pcr; sars-cov-2.