CT Scans of Lung May Help With Coronavirus Diagnosis

February 27, 2020

Radiologists at Mount Sinai say they have identified telltale patterns

Using CT scans, physicians at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City have identified specific patterns in the lungs that could help with the diagnosis of  COVID-19.

"If coronavirus should continue to spread and impact the United States or elsewhere more significantly, this study equips radiologists with the knowledge to recognize and more confidently suggest if a patient has COVID-19 or pneumonia due to another cause," said Michael Chung, MD, an assistant professor at the Icahn School of Medicine, according to a press release. Icahn is part of the Mount Sinai system.

Chung and his co-authors reported their findings in the February issue of Radiology. Their research shows that CT scans cannot rule out COVID-19 early in the infection but that some telltale signs appear later on. 

The study included CT scans of 94 patients that Mount Sinai received from collaborators in China. The patients had been admitted to four Chinese medical centers after they had traveled recently to Wuhan-China, where the COVID-19 outbreak began-or had contact with someone who was infected COVID-19 patient, according to the press release.

Of the 36 patients scanned zero to two days after reporting symptoms, more than half showed no evidence of lung disease. 

For the 33 patients scanned three to five days after symptoms developed, radiologists started to see more patterns of "ground glass opacities" (hazy findings in the lungs), according to the press release.

In the 25 patients scanned six to 12 days after symptoms, the scans showed full-blown lung disease and patterns similar to those seen in the lungs of patients infected with other coronaviruses, including those infected during the outbreaks of  SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome, the press release says.