Purpose To assess the presence and pattern of incidental interstitial lung alterations suspicious of COVID-19 on fluorine-18-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (PET)/computed tomography (CT) ([18F]FDG PET/CT) in asymptomatic oncological patients during the period of active COVID-19 in a country with high prevalence of the virus. Methods This is a multi-center retrospective observational study involving 59 Italian centers. We retrospectively reviewed the prevalence of interstitial pneumonia detected during the COVID period (between March 16 and 27, 2020) and compared to a pre-COVID period (January–February 2020) and a control time (in 2019). The diagnosis of interstitial pneumonia was done considering lung alterations of CT of PET. Results Overall, [18F]FDG PET/CT was performed on 4008 patients in the COVID period, 19,267 in the pre-COVID period, and 5513 in the control period. The rate of interstitial pneumonia suspicious for COVID-19 was significantly higher during the COVID period (7.1%) compared with that found in the pre-COVID (5.35%) and control periods (5.15%) (p < 0.001). Instead, no significant difference among pre-COVID and control periods was present. The prevalence of interstitial pneumonia detected at PET/CT was directly associated with geographic virus diffusion, with the higher rate in Northern Italy. Among 284 interstitial pneumonia detected during COVID period, 169 (59%) were FDG-avid (average SUVmax of 4.1)
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