Acad Radiol. 2020 Sep 21:S1076-6332(20)30542-0. doi: 10.1016/j.acra.2020.09.003. Online ahead of print.
RATIONALE AND OBJECTIVES: Real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) remains the gold standard for confirmation of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) despite having many disadvantages. Here, we investigated the diagnostic performance of chest computed tomography (CT) as an alternative to RT-PCR in patients with clinical suspicion of COVID-19 infection.
METHODS: In this descriptive cross-sectional study, 27,824 patients with clinical suspicion of COVID-19 infection who underwent unenhanced low-dose chest CT from 20 February, 2020 to 21 May, 2020 were evaluated. Patients were recruited from seven specifically designated hospitals for patients with COVID-19 infection affiliated to Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences. In each hospital, images were interpreted by two independent radiologists. CT findings were considered as positive/negative for COVID-19 infection based on RSNA diagnostic criteria. Then, the correlation between the number of daily positive chest CT scans and number of daily PCR-confirmed cases and COVID-19-related deaths in Tehran province during this three-month period was assessed. The trends of admission rate and patients with positive CT scans were also evaluated.
RESULTS: A strong positive correlation between the numbers of daily positive CT scans and daily PCR-confirmed COVID-19 cases (r = 0.913, p < 0.001) was observed. Furthermore, in hospitals located in regions with a lower socioeconomic status, the admission rate and number of positive cases within this three-month period was higher as compared to other hospitals.
CONCLUSION: Low-dose chest CT is a safe, rapid and reliable alternative to RT-PCR for the diagnosis of COVID-19 in high-prevalence regions. In addition, our study provides further evidence for considering patients' socioeconomic status as an important risk factor for COVID-19.