Chest radiograph at admission predicts early intubation among inpatient COVID-19 patients

Nicholas Xiao*, John G. Cooper, Jacqueline M. Godbe, Meagan A. Bechel, Michael B. Scott, Edward Nguyen, Danielle M. McCarthy, Samir Abboud, Bradley D. Allen, Nishant D. Parekh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objective: The 2019 Coronavirus (COVID-19) results in a wide range of clinical severity and there remains a need for prognostic tools which identify patients at risk of rapid deterioration and who require critical care. Chest radiography (CXR) is routinely obtained at admission of COVID-19 patients. However, little is known regarding correlates between CXR severity and time to intubation. We hypothesize that the degree of opacification on CXR at time of admission independently predicts need and time to intubation. Methods: In this retrospective cohort study, we reviewed COVID-19 patients who were admitted to an urban medical center during March 2020 that had a CXR performed on the day of admission. CXRs were divided into 12 lung zones and were assessed by two blinded thoracic radiologists. A COVID-19 opacification rating score (CORS) was generated by assigning one point for each lung zone in which an opacity was observed. Underlying comorbidities were abstracted and assessed for association. Results: One hundred forty patients were included in this study and 47 (34%) patients required intubation during the admission. Patients with CORS ≥ 6 demonstrated significantly higher rates of early intubation within 48 h of admission and during the hospital stay (ORs 24 h, 19.8, p < 0.001; 48 h, 28.1, p < 0.001; intubation during hospital stay, 6.1, p < 0.0001). There was no significant correlation between CORS ≥ 6 and age, sex, BMI, or any underlying cardiac or pulmonary comorbidities. Conclusions: CORS ≥ 6 at the time of admission predicts need for intubation, with significant increases in intubation at 24 and 48 h, independent of comorbidities. Key Points: • Chest radiography at the time of admission independently predicts time to intubation within 48 h and during the hospital stay in COVID-19 patients. • More opacities on chest radiography are associated with several fold increases in early mechanical ventilation among COVID-19 patients. • Chest radiography is useful in identifying COVID-19 patients whom may rapidly deteriorate and help inform clinical management as well as hospital bed and ventilation allocation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2825-2832
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Radiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Intubation
  • Prognosis
  • Radiography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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