Radiological findings of pneumonia in patients with swine-origin influenza A virus (H1N1)

E Busi Rizzi, V Schininà, F Ferraro, L Rovighi, M Cristoforo, D Chiappetta, F Lisena, F Lauria, C Bibbolino
La Radiologia Medica 2010, 115 (4): 507-15

PURPOSE: During spring 2009, a pandemic swine-origin influenza A (H1N1) virus (S-OIV) emerged and spread globally. We describe the chest X-ray and computed tomography (CT) findings of 40 patients with pneumonia due to S-OIV observed in our institution.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Among 534 patients with S-OIV, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention case definition, seen between June and November 2009, 121 underwent chest X-ray and 40 (median age 44 years, range 16-79) had pneumonia. The initial chest radiographs were evaluated for pattern, distribution and extent of lung abnormalities. Unenhanced chest CT scans were performed in two patients and were reviewed for the same findings. Underlying medical conditions were present in 42% of patients (17/40).

RESULTS: Our patients had predominantly mild illness, and pneumonia was observed in 40 individuals (40/121 patients who had chest X-rays, 33%; and 40/534 patients with S-OIV, 7.5%). However, S-OIV can cause severe illness requiring admission to the intensive care unit for advanced mechanical ventilation and extracorporeal life support, including adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and death. The major radiological abnormalities observed were interstitial changes (60.0%), with (22.0%) or without patchy ground-glass appearance, mostly bilateral, and located in the lower lung zones (7.5%). Extensive disease was seen in 37.5% (15/40), and ARDS was observed in three individuals (0.30%)with underlying medical conditions. Subtle pleural effusion was noted in four patients.

CONCLUSIONS: In our series, the most frequent pneumonia patterns observed during S-OIV (H1N1) virus were interstitial changes and patchy ground-glass appearance, mostly bilateral, and located in the lower lung zones. CT, performed in severely ill patients, confirmed the ARDS identified with chest X-rays, better depicting the features and extent of lung abnormalities.

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