BACKGROUND AND AIMS
Overall obesity has recently been established as an independent risk factor for critical illness in patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The role of fat distribution and especially that of visceral fat, which is often associated with metabolic syndrome, remains unclear. Therefore, this study aims at investigating the association between fat distribution and COVID-19 severity.
Thirty patients with COVID-19 and a mean age of 65.6 ± 13.1 years from a level-one medical center in Berlin, Germany, were included in the present cross-sectional analysis. COVID-19 was confirmed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) from nasal and throat swabs. A severe clinical course of COVID-19 was defined by hospitalization in the intensive care unit (ICU) and/or invasive mechanical ventilation. Fat was measured at the level of the first lumbar vertebra on routinely acquired low-dose chest computed tomography (CT).
An increase in visceral fat area (VFA) by ten square centimeters was associated with a 1.37-fold higher likelihood of ICU treatment and a 1.32-fold higher likelihood of mechanical ventilation (adjusted for age and sex). For upper abdominal circumference, each additional centimeter of circumference was associated with a 1.13-fold higher likelihood of ICU treatment and a 1.25-fold higher likelihood of mechanical ventilation.
Our proof-of-concept study suggests that visceral adipose tissue and upper abdominal circumference specifically increase the likelihood of COVID-19 severity. CT-based quantification of visceral adipose tissue and upper abdominal circumference in routine chest CTs may therefore be a simple tool for risk assessment in COVID-19 patients.