Performance of Low-Dose Chest CT as a Triage Tool for Suspected COVID-19 Patients

J Belg Soc Radiol. 2021 Feb 16;105(1):9. doi: 10.5334/jbsr.2319.


Purpose: To investigate the role of low-dose chest computed tomography (CT) imaging in the triage of patients suspected of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in an emergency setting.

Materials and methods: Data from 610 patients admitted to our emergency unit from March 20, 2020, until April 11, 2020, with suspicion of COVID-19 were collected. Diagnostic values of low-dose chest CT for COVID-19 were calculated using consecutive reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) as reference. Comparative analysis of the 199 COVID-19 positive versus 411 COVID-19 negative patients was done with identification of risk factors and predictors of worse outcome.

Results: Sensitivity and specificity of low-dose CT for the diagnosis of COVID-19 respectively ranged from 75% (150/199) to 88% (175/199) and 94% (386/411) to 99% (386/389), depending on the inclusion of inconclusive results. On multivariate analysis, a higher body mass index (BMI), fever, and dyspnea on admission were risk factors for COVID-19 (all p-values < 0.05). The mortality rate was 12.6% (25/199). Higher age and high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and D-dimers were predictors of worse outcome (all p-values < 0.05).

Conclusion: Low-dose chest CT has a high specificity and a moderate to high sensitivity in symptomatic patients with suspicion of COVID-19 and could be used as an effective tool in setting of triage in high-prevalence areas.

Keywords: COVID-19; low-dose chest CT; pandemic; performance; triage.