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Cho JL, Villacreses R, Nagpal P, Guo J, Pezzulo AA, Thurman AL, Hamzeh NY, Blount RJ, Fortis S, Hoffman EA, Zabner J, Comellas AP. Quantitative Chest CT Assessment of Small Airways Disease in Post-Acute SARS-CoV-2 Infection. Radiology. 2022 Jul 1; 304(1):185-192.
Background The long-term effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection on pulmonary structure and function remain incompletely characterized. Purpose To test whether SARS-CoV-2 infection leads to small airways disease in patients with persistent symptoms. Materials and Methods In this single-center study at a university teaching hospital, adults with confirmed COVID-19 who remained symptomatic more than 30 days following diagnosis were prospectively enrolled from June to December 2020 and compared with healthy participants (controls) prospectively enrolled from March to August 2018. Participants with post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC) were classified as ambulatory, hospitalized, or having required the intensive care unit (ICU) based on the highest level of care received during acute infection. Symptoms, pulmonary function tests, and chest CT images were collected. Quantitative CT analysis was performed using supervised machine learning to measure regional ground-glass opacity (GGO) and using inspiratory and expiratory image-matching to measure regional air trapping. Univariable analyses and multivariable linear regression were used to compare groups. Results Overall, 100 participants with PASC (median age, 48 years; 66 women) were evaluated and compared with 106 matched healthy controls; 67% (67 of 100) of the participants with PASC were classified as ambulatory, 17% (17 of 100) were hospitalized, and 16% (16 of 100) required the ICU. In the hospitalized and ICU groups, the mean percentage of total lung classified as GGO was 13.2% and 28.7%, respectively, and was higher than that in the ambulatory group (3.7%, < .001 for both comparisons). The mean percentage of total lung affected by air trapping was 25.4%, 34.6%, and 27.3% in the ambulatory, hospitalized, and ICU groups, respectively, and 7.2% in healthy controls ( < .001). Air trapping correlated with the residual volume-to-total lung capacity ratio ( = 0.6, < .001). Conclusion In survivors of COVID-19, small airways disease occurred independently of initial infection severity. The long-term consequences are unknown. © RSNA, 2022 See also the editorial by Elicker in this issue.