Background: COVID-19 patients' courses vary in length, indicating a variable prognosis. The disease duration revealed by different examination methods may differ.
Objective: To compare the differences in the disease course of patients with COVID-19 by chest computed tomography (CT) and reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay and explore the factors that affect the course of the illness.
Methods: 106 patients confirmed with COVID-19 were enrolled and divided into two groups (age <60 years and age 60 years). The clinical characteristics of the two groups were analyzed. The intervals from symptoms onset to initial positive time point (ISIP), symptoms onset to initial negative time point (ISIN), and initial positive to initial negative time point (IIPN) indicated by chest CT and RT-PCR assay were analyzed. Multiple regression analysis was performed to assess the correlations between independent factors and the intervals.
Results: Chest CT showed an earlier positive time point, a later negative time point, and a longer disease duration than RT-PCR assay (P<.001, respectively). Older patients over 60 years old showed a later negative time point and a longer disease duration by chest CT than younger patients (P<.01 vs. P<.05, respectively). The CT score and clinical grades of older patients were greater than those of younger patients (P<.001, respectively). Age and clinical grades were significantly correlated with the disease course shown by chest CT (P<.05, respectively), and CT score was positively correlated with the illness course shown by chest CT and RT-PCR assay (P<.01, respectively).
Conclusion: The disease course revealed by chest CT and RT-PCR assay was asynchronous. Chest CT showed a 17-day longer period compared to the RT-PCR assay. Older patients had a longer duration than younger ones. A prolonged course is predicted by increasing age, CT score, and clinical grades.