In Vivo. 2022 May-Jun;36(3):1316-1324. doi: 10.21873/invivo.12832.
BACKGROUND/AIM: To assess the diagnostic performance of reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), low-dose chest computed tomography (CT), and serological testing, alone and in combinations, as well as routine inflammatory markers in patients evaluated for COVID-19 during the first wave in early 2020.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: We retrospectively analyzed data of all patients who were admitted to the emergency department due to fever and/or respiratory symptoms. CT scans were rated using the COVID-19 Reporting and Data System (CO-RADS) suspicion score. True disease status (COVID-19 - positive vs. negative) was adjudicated by two independent clinicians. Receiver-operating characteristic curves and areas under the curves were calculated for inflammatory markers. Sensitivities and specificities were calculated for RT-PCR, CT, and serology alone, as well as the combinations of RT-PCR+CT, RT-PCR+serology, CT+serology, and all three modalities.
RESULTS: Of 221 patients with a median age of 72 years, 113 were classified as COVID-19 positive. Among 180 patients from which data on CT and RT-PCR were available, RT-PCR had the highest sensitivity to detect COVID-19 (0.87; 95%CI=0.78-0.93). Notably, the addition of CT in the analysis increased sensitivity to 0.89 (95%CI=0.8-0.94), but lowered specificity from 1 (95%CI=0.96-1) to 0.9 (95%CI=0.83-0.95). The combination of RT-PCR, CT and serology (n=60 patients with complete dataset) yielded a sensitivity of 0.83 (95%CI=0.61-0.94) and specificity of 0.86 (95%CI=0.72-0.93).
CONCLUSION: RT-PCR was the best single test in patients evaluated for COVID-19. Conversely, the routine performance of chest CT adds little sensitivity and decreases specificity.