Extension of collagen deposition in covid-19 post mortem lung samples and computed tomography analysis findings

Lorenzo Ball, Emanuela Barisione, Luca Mastracci, Michela Campora, Delfina Costa, Chiara Robba, Denise Battaglini, Marco Micali, Federico Costantino, Giuseppe Cittadini, Nicolò Patroniti, Paolo Pelosi, Roberto Fiocca, Federica Grillo

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Lung fibrosis has specific computed tomography (CT) findings and represents a common finding in advanced COVID-19 pneumonia whose reversibility has been poorly investigated. The aim of this study was to quantify the extension of collagen deposition and aeration in postmortem cryobiopsies of critically ill COVID-19 patients and to describe the correlations with qualitative and quantitative analyses of lung CT. Postmortem transbronchial cryobiopsy samples were obtained, formalin fixed, paraffin embedded and stained with Sirius red to quantify collagen deposition, defining fibrotic samples as those with collagen deposition above 10%. Lung CT images were analyzed qualitatively with a radiographic score and quantitatively with computer-based analysis at the lobe level. Thirty samples from 10 patients with COVID-19 pneumonia deceased during invasive mechanical ventilation were included in this study. The median [interquartile range] percent collagen extension was 6.8% (4.6–16.2%). In fibrotic compared to nonfibrotic samples, the qualitative score was higher (260 (250–290) vs. 190 (120–270), p = 0.036) while the gas fraction was lower (0.46 (0.32–0.47) vs. 0.59 (0.37–0.68), p = 0.047). A radiographic score above 230 had 100% sensitivity (95% confidence interval, CI: 66.4% to 100%) and 66.7% specificity (95% CI: 41.0% to 92.3%) to detect fibrotic samples, while a gas fraction below 0.57 had 100% sensitivity (95% CI: 66.4% to 100%) and 57.1% specificity (95% CI: 26.3% to 88.0%). In COVID-19 pneumonia, qualitative and quantitative analyses of lung CT images have high sensitivity but moderate to low specificity to detect histopathological fibrosis. Pseudofibrotic CT findings do not always correspond to increased collagen deposition.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7498
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2 2021


  • Collagen
  • Computed tomography
  • COVID-19
  • Fibrosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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