Is CT scanning a reliable answer for diagnosis of COVID and what role it plays in post COVID ERA

10/01/2021

It has been a year now since the first recorded case of COVID-19, in Wuhan City, China. While diagnostic and treatment protocols have come a long way since then, the pandemic continues to affect populations across the world. Although coronavirus vaccines are on the horizon, we will still need to deal with months of infections before widespread vaccination takes place. Until then, early and accurate diagnosis is critical to both curbing the spread of the virus and improving health outcomes.

As most people know by now, testing for COVID-19 becomes necessary if you develop symptoms of infection or if you have been exposed the virus through close contact with someone else who tested positive. Although your doctor will determine whether or not you need testing and what kind of testing should be done, RT-PCR testing remains the primary method of diagnosis. However, the role of chest CT scanning cannot be overlooked and some health care providers even recommend it as a simpler and quicker diagnostic tool.

CT Scans As A COVID-19 Diagnostic Tool

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were severe shortages of testing kits and they still remain inadequate in some regions. This led to health care providers experimenting with other diagnostic tools, such as imaging tests. Chest CT scans and x-rays were of course most useful, considering the progression of the disease. Based on their experiences and study findings, there is a strong case to be made for using CT scanning to diagnose COVID-19 infection.

CT has a potential role in diagnosis, detection of complications and also in follow up scans.

Researchers who published their findings in the journal Radiology opine that CT scans should be considered a primary diagnostic tool for a variety of reasons. They found that the sensitivity of CT scanning was 97% compared to RT-PCR sensitivity of 71%. The low sensitivity of RT-PCR means that many patients aren’t diagnosed quickly enough, leading to delayed treatment. In such patients, where RT-PCR results were initially negative, CT scanning helped with diagnosis and 81% of the patients were reclassified. This approach is believed to combat both the spread of the virus and improve patient outcomes because of early isolation and timely treatment.

Similar findings were found in other studies, with chest CT scanning revealing evidence of patchy shadowing or pneumonia in patients who were otherwise asymptomatic. This is why your doctor may recommend high-resolution CT scanning in cases of suspected COVID-19 infection. At the same time, health care providers recognize the limitations of CT scans for COVID-19 diagnosis, as many other lung problems can show similar manifestations. This is why CT scanning is usually not used in isolation as a COVID-19 diagnostic tool, but rather as an aid to diagnosis.

CT Scanning In The Post COVID Era

To be fair, like all imaging technology, there were plenty of innovations and advances in CT scanning even before the coronavirus pandemic struck. However, the pandemic has led to a dramatic increase in the demand and complexity of CT scanning procedures, putting greater pressure on health care providers. This is driving innovation toward new solutions, including intelligent navigation, personalized imaging, patient-friendly design, and most importantly intuitive AI-based deep learning platforms that make it easier for radiologists and technicians to process higher volumes of data at a faster speed.

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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