Current best evidence for clinical care (more info)
OBJECTIVES: To assess the diagnostic performances of chest CT for triage of patients in multiple emergency departments during COVID-19 epidemic, in comparison with reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.
METHOD: From March 3 to April 4, 2020, 694 consecutive patients from three emergency departments of a large university hospital, for which a hospitalization was planned whatever the reasons, i.e., COVID- or non-COVID-related, underwent a chest CT and one or several RT-PCR tests. Chest CTs were rated as "Surely COVID+," "Possible COVID+," or "COVID-" by experienced radiologists. Sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV), and negative predictive value (NPV) were calculated using the final RT-PCR test as standard of reference. The delays for CT reports and RT-PCR results were recorded and compared.
RESULTS: Among the 694 patients, 287 were positive on the final RT-PCR exam. Concerning the 694 chest CT, 308 were rated as "Surely COVID+", 34 as "Possible COVID+," and 352 as "COVID-." When considering only the "Surely COVID+" CT as positive, accuracy, sensitivity, specificity, PPV, and NPV reached 88.9%, 90.2%, 88%, 84.1%, and 92.7%, respectively, with respect to final RT-PCR test. The mean delay for CT reports was three times shorter than for RT-PCR results (187 ± 148 min versus 573 ± 327 min, p < 0.0001).
CONCLUSION: During COVID-19 epidemic phase, chest CT is a rapid and most probably an adequately reliable tool to refer patients requiring hospitalization to the COVID+ or COVID- hospital units, when response times for virological tests are too long.
KEY POINTS: • In a large university hospital in Lyon, France, the accuracy, sensitivity, specificity, PPV, and NPV of chest CT for COVID-19 reached 88.9%, 90.2%, 88%, 84.1%, and 92.7%, respectively, using RT-PCR as standard of reference. • The mean delay for CT reports was three times shorter than for RT-PCR results (187 ± 148 min versus 573 ± 327 min, p < 0.0001). • Due to high accuracy of chest CT for COVID-19 and shorter time for CT reports than RT-PCR results, chest CT can be used to orient patients suspected to be positive towards the COVID+ unit to decrease congestion in the emergency departments.
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Given the still lack of rapid testing in many areas, utilizing chest CT may be an appropriate triage tool. One must consider the cost and radiation exposure that could occur when implementing this strategy.
Based on my limited knowledge of this disease (along with everyone else) this appears to be a useful method of deciding on the necessity for admission when the usual clinical criteria are equivocal. I worry about the radiation to all those determined not to require admission.
This study adds to the growing literature showing that, at least for sicker patients, chest CT can be a useful diagnostic option until we have accurate point-of-care COVID testing.
I think most of us (at least those who have been dealing with this clinically) know that the CT is often "COVID-y."