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AJR: Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) imaging features overlap with SARS and MERS

COVID-19's imaging features are variable and nonspecific, but the imaging findings reported thus far do show "significant overlap" with those of severe acute respiratory syndrome and Middle East respiratory syndrome

American Roentgen Ray Society

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IMAGE: Note--SARS = severe acute respiratory syndrome, MERS = Middle East respiratory syndrome, COVID-19 = coronavirus disease 2019, GGO = ground-glass opacity, ARDS = acute respiratory distress syndrome. aOver a period of... view more 

Credit: American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR)

Leesburg, VA, February 28, 2020--Although the imaging features of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are variable and nonspecific, the findings reported thus far do show "significant overlap" with those of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), according to an ahead-of-print article in the American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR).

COVID-19 is diagnosed on the presence of pneumonia symptoms (e.g., dry cough, fatigue, myalgia, fever, dyspnea), as well as recent travel to China or known exposure, and chest imaging plays a vital role in both assessment of disease extent and follow-up.

As per her review of the present clinical literature concerning COVID-19, Melina Hosseiny of the University of California at Los Angeles concluded: "Early evidence suggests that initial chest imaging will show abnormality in at least 85% of patients, with 75% of patients having bilateral lung involvement initially that most often manifests as subpleural and peripheral areas of ground-glass opacity and consolidation."

Furthermore, "older age and progressive consolidation" may imply an overall poorer prognosis.

Unlike SARS and MERS--where initial chest imaging abnormalities are more frequently unilateral--COVID-19 is more likely to involve both lungs on initial imaging.

"To our knowledge," Hosseiny et al. continued, "pleural effusion, cavitation, pulmonary nodules, and lymphadenopathy have not been reported in patients with COVID-19."

Ultimately, the authors of this AJR article recommended CT for follow-up in patients recovering from COVID-19 to evaluate long-term or even permanent pulmonary damage, including fibrosis--as seen in SARS and MERS infections.

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Founded in 1900, the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS) is the first and oldest radiological society in North America, dedicated to the advancement of medicine through the profession of radiology and its allied sciences. An international forum for progress in medical imaging since the discovery of the x-ray, ARRS maintains its mission of improving health through a community committed to advancing knowledge and skills with an annual scientific meeting, monthly publication of the peer-reviewed American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR), quarterly issues of InPractice magazine, AJR Live Webinars and Podcasts, topical symposia, print and online educational materials, as well as awarding scholarships via The Roentgen Fund®.

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