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In Open forum infectious diseases

Background : Obesity has been linked to severe clinical outcomes among people who are hospitalized with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We tested the hypothesis that visceral adipose tissue (VAT) is associated with severe outcomes in patients hospitalized with COVID-19, independent of body mass index (BMI).

Methods : We analyzed data from the Massachusetts General Hospital COVID-19 Data Registry, which included patients admitted with polymerase chain reaction-confirmed severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection from March 11 to May 4, 2020. We used a validated, fully automated artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm to quantify VAT from computed tomography (CT) scans during or before the hospital admission. VAT quantification took an average of 2 ± 0.5 seconds per patient. We dichotomized VAT as high and low at a threshold of ≥100 cm2 and used Kaplan-Meier curves and Cox proportional hazards regression to assess the relationship between VAT and death or intubation over 28 days, adjusting for age, sex, race, BMI, and diabetes status.

Results : A total of 378 participants had CT imaging. Kaplan-Meier curves showed that participants with high VAT had a greater risk of the outcome compared with those with low VAT (P < .005), especially in those with BMI <30 kg/m2 (P < .005). In multivariable models, the adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) for high vs low VAT was unchanged (aHR, 1.97; 95% CI, 1.24-3.09), whereas BMI was no longer significant (aHR for obese vs normal BMI, 1.14; 95% CI, 0.71-1.82).

Conclusions : High VAT is associated with a greater risk of severe disease or death in COVID-19 and can offer more precise information to risk-stratify individuals beyond BMI. AI offers a promising approach to routinely ascertain VAT and improve clinical risk prediction in COVID-19.

Goehler Alexander, Hsu Tzu-Ming Harry, Seiglie Jacqueline A, Siedner Mark J, Lo Janet, Triant Virginia, Hsu John, Foulkes Andrea, Bassett Ingrid, Khorasani Ramin, Wexler Deborah J, Szolovits Peter, Meigs James B, Manne-Goehler Jennifer


COVID-19 disease, artificial intelligence, visceral adiposity