Severe acute respiratory syndrome: temporal lung changes at thin-section CT in 30 patients

Gaik C Ooi, Pek L Khong, Nestor L Müller, Wai C Yiu, Lin J Zhou, James C M Ho, Bing Lam, Savvas Nicolaou, Kenneth W T Tsang
Radiology 2004, 230 (3): 836-44

PURPOSE: To evaluate lung abnormalities on serial thin-section computed tomographic (CT) scans in patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) during acute and convalescent periods.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Serial thin-section CT scans in 30 patients (17 men, aged 42.5 years +/- 12.2 [SD]) with SARS were reviewed by two radiologists together for predominant patterns of lung abnormalities: ground-glass opacities, ground-glass opacities with superimposed linear opacities, consolidation, reticular pattern, and mixed pattern (consolidation, ground-glass opacities, and reticular pattern). Scans were classified according to duration in weeks after symptom onset. Longitudinal changes of specific abnormalities were documented in 17 patients with serial scans obtained during 3 weeks. Each lung was divided into three zones; each zone was evaluated for percentage of lung involvement. Summation of scores from all six lung zones provided overall CT score (maximal CT score, 24).

RESULTS: Median CT scores increased from 1 in the 1st week to 12.5 in the 2nd week. Ground-glass opacities with or without smooth interlobular septal thickening and consolidation were predominant patterns found during the 1st week. Ground-glass opacities with superimposed irregular reticular opacities, mixed pattern, and reticular opacities were noted from the 2nd week and peaked at or after the 4th week. After the 4th week, 12 (55%) of 22 patients had irregular linear opacities with or without associated ground-glass opacities and CT scores greater than 5; five of these patients had bronchial dilatation. When specific opacities were analyzed in 17 patients, consolidation generally resolved completely (n = 4) or to minimal residual opacities; six (55%) of 11 patients with ground-glass opacities had substantial residual disease (CT scores > 5) on final scans.

CONCLUSION: There is a temporal pattern of lung abnormalities at thin-section CT in SARS. Predominant findings at presentation are ground-glass opacities and consolidation. Reticulation is evident after the 2nd week and persists in half of all patients evaluated after 4 weeks. Long-term follow-up is required to determine whether the reticulation represents irreversible fibrosis.

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