Radiologic Features of T10 Paravertebral Muscle Sarcopenia: Prognostic Factors in COVID-19

Georgios Schinas, Vasiliki Dimakopoulou, Konstantinos Dionysopoulos, Georgia Fezoulidi, Marianna Vlychou, Katerina Vassiou, Nikolaos K. Gatselis, Anna Samakidou, Georgios Giannoulis, Argyrios Tzouvelekis, Markos Marangos, Charalambos Gogos, George N. Dalekos, Christina Kalogeropoulou, Karolina Akinosoglou


Background: Sarcopenia, defined as a small cross-sectional area (CSA) in computed tomography (CT) measurements of skeletal muscles, serves as a disease severity marker in various clinical scenarios, including pulmonary conditions and critical illness. Another parameter of sarcopenia, the level of myosteatosis, reflected by the tissues radiodensity, in the thoracic skeletal muscles group, has been linked to disease progression in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients. We hypothesize that CT-derived measurements of the skeletal muscle density (SMD) and the CSA of thoracic skeletal muscles can predict outcomes in COVID-19 pneumonia.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the CT scans of 84 patients with COVID-19 pneumonia admitted to two of Greeces largest academic teaching hospitals between April 2020 and February 2021. CSA and SMD at the level of the T10 vertebra were measured using computational imaging methods. The patient population was stratified according to survival status and CT severity score (CT-SS). Correlations were drawn between the radiologic features of sarcopenia, CT severity subgroups, serum inflammatory markers, and adverse events, e.g., death and intubation.

Results: Thoracic muscles CSA measurements correlate with CT-SS and prominent inflammatory markers, such as white blood cell (WBC), C-reactive protein (CRP), fibrinogen, and D-dimers. Moreover, according to linear regression analysis, CSA seems to predict CT-SS variation significantly (? = -0.266, P = 0.018). CSA proved to differ significantly across survivors (P = 0.027) but not between CT severity categories and intubation subgroups. The AUC (area under the curve) of the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve for the predictive value of thoracic muscles CSA in mortality is 0.774 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.66 - 0.83, P < 0.000). The optimal cut-off value (Youden index = 0.57) for mortality prognosis, with a sensitivity of 66.7% and a specificity of 88.9%, is 15.55. Thoracic muscles SMD analyses did not reveal any significant correlations.

Conclusions: Easy to obtain and accurately calculated, radiologic features can provide a reliable alternative to laboratory methods for predicting survival in COVID-19. Thoracic muscles CSA measurement in the level of the T10 vertebra, an acclaimed prognostic imaging assessment that relates directly to CT-SS and inflammatory markers in COVID-19 pneumonia, is a fairly specific tool for survival prognosis.

J Clin Med Res. 2023;15(7):368-376


Chest computed tomography; SAR-CoV-2; COVID-19; Prognostic factors; Cross-sectional anatomy; Muscle mass

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