Some providers turn to CT scans for COVID-19 diagnoses

Mackenzie Bean - Print  | 

Some physicians are calling for the use of chest CT scans to help detect COVID-19 amid ongoing testing shortages and delays, reports STAT.

Chest scans that show hazy white spots in the lungs can be an alarm bell for COVID-19. While the scans were widely used to diagnose COVID-19 infections in China, the practice has not gained much traction in the U.S. 

The CDC and the American College of Radiology do not recommend the use of CT scans for COVID-19 diagnoses. For one, the tests are more expensive than molecular testing. They also expose patients to small amounts of radiation and could pose an infection risk if not properly sanitized between scans.

However, more hospitals are now turning to CT scans due to long delays and a high rate of false negatives for molecular tests. The Fleischner Society, an international group of chest radiologists, last week recommended that CT scans may be appropriate for use in certain situations, such as during a pandemic.

Joseph Fraiman, MD, a New Orleans-based emergency medicine physician, said he performs two to three chest CTs on suspected COVID-19 patients every shift.

"Every [emergency room] physician I know recognizes the power of these scans," he told STAT. "Aggressive disease identification would involve both [swab tests] and CT to ensure the highest sensitivity, missing the fewest cases possible."

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