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The caliber of segmental and subsegmental vessels in COVID-19 pneumonia is enlarged: a distinctive feature in comparison with other forms of inflammatory and thromboembolic diseases

Ambrosetti MC, Battocchio G, Montemezzi S, Cattazzo F, Bejko T, Tacconelli E, Minuz P, Crisafulli E, Fava C, Mansueto G

Background: The purpose of this study was to compare COVID-19 patients' vessel caliber with that of normal lungs and lungs affected by other inflammatory and thromboembolic processes.

Methods: between March and April 2020, 42 patients affected by COVID-19 pneumonia (COV-P) underwent CT scans of the lungs at Verona University Hospital for clinical indications. The lung images of four different groups of patients were compared (normal lung (NL), distal thromboembolism (DTE), and bacterial and fungal pneumonia (Bact-P, Fung-P)) by a radiologist with four years of experience.

Results: The COV-P patients' segmental and subsegmental vessels, evaluated as the ratio with the corresponding bronchial branch (V/B ratio), were larger, with respect to the NL the DTE groups, in the apparently healthy parenchyma, a result confirmed in the zones of opacification with respect to the Bact-P and Fung-P groups.

Conclusions: This was the first study to show, by comparative analysis, that COVID-19 patients' segmental and subsegmental vessel calibers are significantly enlarged. This is a distinctive feature of COVID-19 pneumonia, suggesting its distinct pathophysiology as compared to other inflammatory and thromboembolic diseases and alerting radiologists to consider it when evaluating the CT scans of suspected patients.

Keywords: COVID-19 virus disease; CT scan; SARS-CoV; pulmonary vessel dilatation.

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