Diagnostic Accuracy of Chest Digital Tomosynthesis in Patients Recovering after COVID-19 Pneumonia

Tomography. 2022 Apr 24;8(3):1221-1227. doi: 10.3390/tomography8030100.


Purpose: To assess the diagnostic accuracy of traditional chest X-ray (CXR) and digital tomosynthesis (DTS) compared to computed tomography (CT) in detecting pulmonary interstitial changes in patients having recovered from severe COVID-19.

Materials and methods: This was a retrospective observational study, and received local ethics committee approval. Patients suspected of having COVID-19 pneumonia upon emergency department admission between 1 March and 31 August 2020, and who underwent CXR followed by DTS and CT, were considered. Inclusion criteria were as follows: (1) patients with previous SARS-CoV-2 infection proven by a positive RT-PCR on nasopharyngeal swabs performed upon admission to the hospital, and with complete clinical recovery; (2) a diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2-related ARDS, according to the Berlin criteria, during hospitalization; (3) no recent history of other lung disease; and (4) complete imaging follow-up by CXR, DTS, and CT for at least 6 months and up to one year. Analysis of DTS images was carried out independently by two radiologists with 16 and 10 years of experience in chest imaging, respectively. The following findings were evaluated: (1) ground-glass opacities (GGOs); (2) air-space consolidations with or without air bronchogram; (3) reticulations; and (4) linear consolidation. Indicators of diagnostic performance of RX and digital tomosynthesis were calculated using CT as a reference. All data were analyzed using R statistical software (version 4.0.2, 2020).

Results: Out of 44 patients initially included, 25 patients (17 M/8 F), with a mean age of 64 years (standard deviation (SD): 12), met the criteria and were included. The overall average numbers of findings confirmed by CT were GGOs in 11 patients, lung consolidations in 8 patients, 7 lung interstitial reticulations, and linear consolidation in 20 patients. DTS showed a significantly higher diagnostic accuracy compared to CXR in recognizing interstitial lung abnormalities-especially GGOs (p = 0.0412) and linear consolidations (p = 0.0009). The average dose for chest X-ray was 0.10 mSv (0.07-0.32), for DTS was 1.03 mSv (0.74-2.00), and for CT scan was 3 mSv.

Conclusions: According to our results, DTS possesses a high diagnostic accuracy, compared with CXR, in revealing lung fibrotic changes in patients who have recovered from COVID-19 pneumonia.

Keywords: ARDS; COVID-19; chest digital tomosynthesis; follow-up.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis*
  • Radiographic Image Enhancement / methods
  • Radiography, Thoracic / methods
  • SARS-CoV-2