Imaging's role in COVID-19 diagnosis: Part One

Updated: Apr 13

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, healthcare providers and researchers have been learning more about when and how to use imaging to diagnose the disease.

In the early days of the outbreak, many cases of the novel coronavirus were diagnosed with computed tomography (CT), particularly in China, where the outbreak was first reported.

American College of Radiology COVID-19 Recommendations

More recently, the American College of Radiology (ACR) has released recommendations for chest CT for diagnosing or ruling out COVID-19.

“Generally, the findings on chest imaging in COVID-19 are not specific and overlap with other infections, including influenza, H1N1, SARS, and MERS,” ACR reports.

Regarding the use of CT for COVID-19, ACR has made several recommendations:

  • CT should not be used for COVID-19 screening or first-line testing. A normal chest CT result does not automatically rule out COVID-19 infection, and an abnormal CT result does not automatically confirm COVID-19.

  • CT should be reserved for hospitalized, symptomatic patients with specific clinical indications when appropriate infection control procedures can be followed.

  • When possible, use portable units when chest radiographs (CXR) are medically necessary.

Studies and Literature of CT for the Novel Coronavirus

In his radiology blog, Australian radiologist Dr. Luke Oakden-Rayner points out that, although many imaging experts advise against CT for diagnosing COVID-19, some published research supports it. In examining the literature, however, he found patients in some studies were not representative of most COVID-19 cases.

In other studies, many chest abnormalities were incorrectly diagnosed as COVID-19, inflating CT’s apparent sensitivity.

Dr. Oakden-Rayner suggests that CT’s actual sensitivity for diagnosing COVID-19 is less than 50%, and may be as low as 20%. However, using Local Contrast Enhancement on CT scans and other studies can help to make the image clearer. NovaPACS offers this capability (see image below).

Accurate medical imaging is particularly critical in a public health crisis like the COVID-19 outbreak. With Novarad’s suite of clinical imaging and enterprise imaging solutions, your radiology practice can increase diagnostic accuracy, navigate high demand, and provide rapid turnaround.

Contact Novarad today to learn how we can help you streamline your medical imaging services.

At this time, we are also offering additional resources to assist current customers. If you are a user of Novarad software and need radiologist or teleradiology licenses at this time, please get in touch and we can offer low- to no-cost benefits.

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