Six-month Follow-up Chest CT Findings after Severe COVID-19 Pneumonia

Radiology. 2021 Apr;299(1):E177-E186. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2021203153. Epub 2021 Jan 26.


Background Little is known about the long-term lung radiographic changes in patients who have recovered from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), especially those with severe disease. Purpose To prospectively assess pulmonary sequelae and explore the risk factors for fibrotic-like changes in the lung at 6-month follow-up chest CT of survivors of severe COVID-19 pneumonia. Materials and Methods A total of 114 patients (80 [70%] men; mean age, 54 years ± 12) were studied prospectively. Initial and follow-up CT scans were obtained a mean of 17 days ± 11 and 175 days ± 20, respectively, after symptom onset. Lung changes (opacification, consolidation, reticulation, and fibrotic-like changes) and CT extent scores (score per lobe, 0-5; maximum score, 25) were recorded. Participants were divided into two groups on the basis of their 6-month follow-up CT scan: those with CT evidence of fibrotic-like changes (traction bronchiectasis, parenchymal bands, and/or honeycombing) (group 1) and those without CT evidence of fibrotic-like changes (group 2). Between-group differences were assessed with the Fisher exact test, two-sample t test, or Mann-Whitney U test. Multiple logistic regression analyses were performed to identify the independent predictive factors of fibrotic-like changes. Results At follow-up CT, evidence of fibrotic-like changes was observed in 40 of the 114 participants (35%) (group 1), whereas the remaining 74 participants (65%) showed either complete radiologic resolution (43 of 114, 38%) or residual ground-glass opacification or interstitial thickening (31 of 114, 27%) (group 2). Multivariable analysis identified age of greater than 50 years (odds ratio [OR]: 8.5; 95% CI: 1.9, 38; P = .01), heart rate greater than 100 beats per minute at admission (OR: 5.6; 95% CI: 1.1, 29; P = .04), duration of hospital stay greater than or equal to 17 days (OR: 5.5; 95% CI: 1.5, 21; P = .01), acute respiratory distress syndrome (OR: 13; 95% CI: 3.3, 55; P < .001), noninvasive mechanical ventilation (OR: 6.3; 95% CI: 1.3, 30; P = .02), and total CT score of 18 or more (OR: 4.2; 95% CI: 1.2, 14; P = .02) at initial CT as independent predictors for fibrotic-like changes in the lung at 6 months. Conclusion Six-month follow-up CT showed fibrotic-like changes in the lung in more than one-third of patients who survived severe coronavirus disease 2019 pneumonia. These changes were associated with an older age, acute respiratory distress syndrome, longer hospital stays, tachycardia, noninvasive mechanical ventilation, and higher initial chest CT score. © RSNA, 2021 Online supplemental material is available for this article. See also the editorial by Wells et al in this issue.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / diagnostic imaging*
  • COVID-19 / pathology*
  • Female
  • Fibrosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Fibrosis / pathology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*