FDG PET/CT imaging features and clinical utility in COVID-19.

Journal: Clinical Imaging

Objective: To determine the imaging findings and potential clinical utility of FDG PET/CT in patients with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19.

Methods: We performed a single institution retrospective review of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 using real time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) who underwent FDG PET/CT for routine cancer care between March 1, 2020 to April 30, 2020, during the height of the pandemic in New York City, New York, United States. PET/CT scans were retrospectively reviewed for imaging findings suspicious for COVID-19. For positive scans, PET and CT findings were recorded, including location, FDG avidity (SUVmax) and CT morphology. Patient demographics and COVID-19 specific clinical data were collected and analyzed with respect to PET/CT scan positivity, lung SUVmax, and time interval between PET/CT and RT-PCR.

Results: Thirty-one patients (21 males and 10 females, mean age 57 years ± 16) were evaluated. Thirteen of 31 patients had positive PET/CT scans, yielding a detection rate of 41.9%. Patients with positive scans had significantly higher rates of symptomatic COVID-19 infection (77% vs 28%, p = 0.01) and hospitalizations (46% vs. 0%, p = 0.002) compared to patients with negative scans. Eleven of 13 patients (84.6%) with positive scans had FDG-avid lung findings, with mean lung SUVmax of 5.36. Six of 13 patients (46.2%) had extrapulmonary findings of FDG-avid thoracic lymph nodes. The detection rate was significantly lower when the scan was performed before RT-PCR versus after RT-PCR (18.8% (n = 3/16) vs. 66.7% (n = 10/15), p = 0.009). Lung SUVmax was not associated with COVID-19 symptoms, severity, or disease course.

Conclusions: FDG PET/CT has limited sensitivity for detecting COVID-19 infection. However, a positive PET scan is associated with higher risk of symptomatic infection and hospitalizations, which may be helpful in predicting disease severity.

Randy Yeh, Ahmed Elsakka, Rick Wray, Rocio Johnston, Natalie Gangai, Hooman Yarmohammadi, Heiko Schoder, Neeta Pandit Taskar

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