• Vol. 35 No. 5, 340–344
  • 15 May 2006

Radiographic Features of SARS in Paediatric Patients: A Review of Cases in Singapore



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Introduction: Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a newly emerged atypical pneumonia caused by the SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV). Chest radiographic appearances have been reported as non-specific, ranging from normal to peribronchial thickening and ill-defined airspace shadowing. This study is a retrospective review of chest radiographic findings in children with suspected and probable SARS during the 2003 outbreak in Singapore.

Materials and Methods: We focused on children admitted to the SARS treatment ward from March 2003 to May 2003. Chest radiographs of children admitted with suspected or probable SARS as well as other febrile illness during this period were retrospectively and independently reviewed by 3 radiologists. The radiographs were randomised and anonymised before interpretation. Subsequently, we identified the radiographs of patients who were categorised as suspected or probable SARS. We present our findings in these patients’ radiographs.

Results: A total of 67 patients’ serial chest radiographs were interpreted. Of these, we subsequently selected those patients with suspected or probable SARS for analysis. The radiographic abnormalities in suspected or probable SARS patients consisted of patchy ground glass opacities or patchy airspace consolidation. The abnormalities had a predominantly lower zone distribution on chest radiographs, followed by mid-zone involvement. There was a slight preponderance of peripheral zone involvement. There was equal distribution of abnormalities in both lungs. All the children with radiographic abnormalities made uneventful recoveries and had normal radiographs on follow-up review.

Conclusions: In children, SARS appears to have a relatively mild and non-specific pattern of respiratory illness. The radiographic features in children with suspected or probable SARS in our study were comparable to other clusters of paediatric patients during initial presentation. It is difficult to distinguish SARS in children from other viral pneumonias on radiographic features alone. Positive travel history to endemic regions or positive contact history, and laboratory findings of lymphopaenia, leukopaenia and thrombocytopaenia are important clues.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a newly emerged atypical pneumonia caused by the SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV). It is easily transmitted via droplet infection from close contact.

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