PLoS One. 2020 Dec 23;15(12):e0244267. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0244267. eCollection 2020.
BACKGROUND: Cardiovascular comorbidity anticipates poor prognosis of SARS-CoV-2 disease (COVID-19) and correlates with the systemic atherosclerotic transformation of the arterial vessels. The amount of aortic wall calcification (AWC) can be estimated on low-dose chest CT. We suggest quantification of AWC on the low-dose chest CT, which is initially performed for the diagnosis of COVID-19, to screen for patients at risk of severe COVID-19.
METHODS: Seventy consecutive patients (46 in center 1, 24 in center 2) with parallel low-dose chest CT and positive RT-PCR for SARS-CoV-2 were included in our multi-center, multi-vendor study. The outcome was rated moderate (no hospitalization, hospitalization) and severe (ICU, tracheal intubation, death), the latter implying a requirement for intensive care treatment. The amount of AWC was quantified with the CT vendor's software.
RESULTS: Of 70 included patients, 38 developed a moderate, and 32 a severe COVID-19. The average volume of AWC was significantly higher throughout the subgroup with severe COVID-19, when compared to moderate cases (771.7 mm3 (Q1 = 49.8 mm3, Q3 = 3065.5 mm3) vs. 0 mm3 (Q1 = 0 mm3, Q3 = 57.3 mm3)). Within multivariate regression analysis, including AWC, patient age and sex, as well as a cardiovascular comorbidity score, the volume of AWC was the only significant regressor for severe COVID-19 (p = 0.004). For AWC > 3000 mm3, the logistic regression predicts risk for a severe progression of 0.78. If there are no visually detectable AWC risk for severe progression is 0.13, only.
CONCLUSION: AWC seems to be an independent biomarker for the prediction of severe progression and intensive care treatment of COVID-19 already at the time of patient admission to the hospital; verification in a larger multi-center, multi-vendor study is desired.