PLoS One. 2020 Nov 23;15(11):e0242840. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0242840. eCollection 2020.
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the diagnostic performance of the initial chest CT to diagnose COVID-19 related pneumonia in a French population of patients with respiratory symptoms according to the time from the onset of country-wide confinement to better understand what could be the role of the chest CT in the different phases of the epidemic.
MATERIAL AND METHOD: Initial chest CT of 1064 patients with respiratory symptoms suspect of COVID-19 referred between March 18th, and May 12th 2020, were read according to a standardized procedure. The results of chest CTs were compared to the results of the RT-PCR.
RESULTS: 546 (51%) patients were found to be positive for SARS-CoV2 at RT-PCR. The highest rate of positive RT-PCR was during the second week of confinement reaching 71.9%. After six weeks of confinement, the positive RT-PCR rate dropped significantly to 10.5% (p<0.001) and even 2.2% during the two last weeks. Overall, CT revealed patterns suggestive of COVID-19 in 603 patients (57%), whereas an alternative diagnosis was found in 246 patients (23%). CT was considered normal in 215 patients (20%) and inconclusive in 1 patient. The overall sensitivity of CT was 88%, specificity 76%, PPV 79%, and NPV 85%. At week-2, the same figures were 89%, 69%, 88% and 71% respectively and 60%, 84%, 30% and 95% respectively at week-6. At the end of confinement when the rate of positive PCR became extremely low the sensitivity, specificity, PPV and NPV of CT were 50%, 82%, 6% and 99% respectively.
CONCLUSION: At the peak of the epidemic, chest CT had sufficiently high sensitivity and PPV to serve as a first-line positive diagnostic tool but at the end of the epidemic wave CT is more useful to exclude COVID-19 pneumonia.