CT Scans Now Show If You Have COVID-19

10/01/2021

It’s nearly been a year since the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in Wuhan, China. In a year, we went from knowing absolutely nothing about the disease to being able to create a vaccine for it. It has been quite a journey.

However, there still are a few factors that need more attention to be able to help us get rid of the pandemic. One such factor is tests done to determine the presence of the coronavirus in an individual.

Lab testings for the disease increased greatly ever since the virus began its march around the globe. RT-PCR tests have been commonly done to determine the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in people. However, there are growing pieces of evidence that suggest regular chest CT scans also help experts determine the presence of the virus and the severity of the disease in a patient.

Why CT Scans Can Be Helpful in Determining the Existence of Coronavirus?

Since COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that affects the lungs majorly, imaging of lungs done in a CT scan can give promising results and help in the early detection of the disease. In CT scans, the extent of damage caused to the lungs by the virus is also seen distinctly. While on the other hand, PCR tests only help if the virus is present in the nose or the throat.

Another advantage of CT scans with respect to the diagnosis of COVID-19 is that the results are delivered in 15 minutes, whereas it takes almost a day for PCR test results to arrive. In several cases, PCR tests have shown false negative results which surely have contributed to the spread of the disease. Alternatively, a CT scan is a fully computerized test that drastically reduces the chances of a wrong diagnosis.

Does CT Scan Provide The Best Diagnosis?

A PCR test only shows the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 in the patients, while a CT scan can help doctors determine the severity of the disease. Yet the question remains whether it is the best diagnosis for the disease? The answer, however, is debatable. With its many pros, the CT scan has its own set of cons as well. CT scans are far more expensive than most COVID tests, and also exposes the patients to radiation. Neither is it possible to determine if the damage to the lungs is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 or any other respiratory disease, based on the test alone. The complete medical history of the patient and other supporting tests may be required to come to accurate conclusions.

Ever since the first chest CT findings published in January 2020, which depicted bilateral ling involvements and ground-glass opacities in the majority of the hospitalized patients. There is a vast improvement in characterization of chest CT Finding including CORDS grading and deriving severity score, which has greatly affected the patient outcome.

Patients referred for CT should undergo non-contrast material enhanced chest CT unless CT pulmonology angiography is required to detect pulmonary embolism. Patients of all ages can become infected with SARS-COV2 and may need to undergo chest imaging. In addition, although chest radiography is most frequently used for follow-up imaging, some patients with COVID, may need to undergo follow-up chest. Therefore non-enhanced chest CT should preferably be performed by using a low-radiation-dose protocol to minimize radiation burden.

Implementation of appropriate precautionary safety measures, appropriate CT chest protocol, and guidelines based reporting system will definitely add to the outcome and management of the patient-friendly.

Studies are still being done to determine the accuracy of various tests, also to figure ways to use CT scans to diagnose COVID-19 without any supporting tests. Until we find promising results, it is best to take your doctor’s recommendations, as they will be the best judge to suggest a test depending on your health conditions. Even if you show the slightest symptoms, it is recommended that you consult your doctor and quarantine yourself. To prevent yourself from being infected, practice all the precautionary measures, stay indoors, and travel only when extremely necessary.

Dr. Muraliswar Rao. J
MD, Radio-Diagnosis (JIPMER)
Head of the Department - Radiology & Imageology

Disclaimer:The views and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author. They do not reflect the opinions or views of the organization.

 

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