A study recently published in the journal Radiology showed that chest CT scan was the most effective screening method in detecting 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The study involved 1,000 patients. Based on the data, CT should be used as the primary diagnosis method to screen for COVID-19.
The Chinese government has been screening its citizens for COVID-19 using reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) or gene sequencing. These tools are used to sample respiratory or blood specimens from patients. However, it was reported that RT-PCR was only effective about 30 to 60 per cent of the time when using throat swabs to screen for COVID-19.
It is imperative that patients be screened to see if they have COVID-19 as soon as possible, given the severity of the outbreak in China and the spread of COVID-19 around the world. Infected patients can get treatment as soon as possible, and they can be isolated to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“Early diagnosis of COVID-19 is crucial for disease treatment and control. Compared to RT-PCR, chest CT imaging may be a more reliable, practical and rapid method to diagnose and assess COVID-19, especially in the epidemic area,” the authors wrote in their press release.
CT Best in Detecting COVID-19
The current study was done at Tongji Hospital in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. The patients (sample size of 1,014) had both CT and RT-PCR tests done to detect whether they had the COVID-19 virus.
In the test, 59 percent of patients screened by RT-PCR were positive for COVID-19 while 88 percent were positive when screened by chest CT. This suggested that the sensitivity of chest CT in screening for COVID-19 was 97 percent, based on positive RT-PCR results. Also in patients who were negative for COVID-19 by RT-PCR, 75 percent had positive findings when screened by chest CT. Out of these cases, 48 percent were considered likely cases of COVID-19 with 33 percent as probable cases.
With the COVID-19 epidemic now spreading globally, using CT chest scans to screen for the coronavirus appear to be the most effective tool to date.