Context.—Studies of lungs in patients with COVID-19 have focused on early findings. Objective.—To systematically study histopathologic and imaging features and presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in lung tissue from patients in later stages of COVID-19. Design.—Autopsies, explants, surgical lung biopsies, transbronchial biopsies, cryobiopsies, and needle biopsies from patients with COVID-19 whose onset of symptoms/confirmed diagnosis was more than 28 days before the procedure were studied. Available images were reviewed. Reverse transcription droplet digital polymerase chain reaction for SARS-CoV-2 RNA was performed on lung tissue. Results.—Of 44 specimens (43 patients; median age, 59.3 years; 26 [60.5%] male) features of acute lung injury (ALI) were seen in 39 (88.6%), predominantly organizing pneumonia and diffuse alveolar damage, up to 298 days after onset of COVID-19. Fibrotic changes were found in 33 specimens (75%), most commonly fibrotic diffuse alveolar damage (n = 22) and cicatricial organizing pneumonia (n = 12). Time between acquiring COVID-19 and specimen was shorter in patients with diffuse ALI (median, 61.5 days) compared with patients with focal (140 days) or no ALI (130 days) (P = .009). Sixteen (of 20; 80%) SARS-CoV-2 reverse transcription droplet digital polymerase chain reaction tests were positive, up to 174 days after COVID-19 onset. Time between COVID-19 onset and most recent computed tomography in patients with consolidation on imaging was shorter (median, 43.0 days) versus in patients without consolidation (87.5 days; P = .02). Reticulations were associated with longer time to computed tomography after COVID-19 onset (median, 82 versus 23.5 days; P = .006). Conclusions.—ALI and SARS-CoV-2 RNA can be detected in patients with COVID-19 for many months. ALI may evolve into fibrotic interstitial lung disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Medical Laboratory Technology