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COVID-19 progression in hospitalized patients using follow-up in vivo CT and ex vivo microCT

Publication at Second Faculty of Medicine |


Background: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) causes coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) which can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and evolve to pulmonary fibrosis. Computed tomography (CT) is used to study disease progression and describe radiological patterns in COVID-19 patients.

This study aimed to assess disease progression regarding lung volume and density over time on follow-up in vivo chest CT and give a unique look at parenchymal and morphological airway changes in "end-stage" COVID-19 lungs using ex vivo microCT. Methods: Volumes and densities of the lung/lobes of three COVID-19 patients were assessed using followup in vivo CT and ex vivo whole lung microCT scans.

Airways were quantified by airway segmentations on whole lung microCT and small-partition microCT. As controls, three discarded healthy donor lungs were used.

Histology was performed in differently affected regions in the COVID-19 lungs. Results: In vivo, COVID-19 lung volumes decreased while density increased over time, mainly in lower lobes as previously shown.

Ex vivo COVID-19 lung volumes decreased by 60% and all lobes were smaller compared to controls. Airways were more visible on ex vivo microCT in COVID-19, probably due to fibrosis and increased airway diameter.

In addition, small-partition microCT showed more deformation of (small) airway morphology and fibrotic organization in severely affected regions with heterogeneous distributions within the same lung which was confirmed by histology. Conclusions: COVID-19-ARDS and subsequent pulmonary fibrosis alters lung architecture and airway morphology which is described using in vivo CT, ex vivo microCT, and histology.