Chest CT is used for diagnosis of 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as an important complement to the reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests.
To investigate the diagnostic value and consistency of chest CT as compared with comparison to RT-PCR assay in COVID-19.
From January 6 to February 6, 2020, 1014 patients in Wuhan, China who underwent both chest CT and RT-PCR tests were included. With RT-PCR as reference standard, the performance of chest CT in diagnosing COVID-19 was assessed. Besides, for patients with multiple RT-PCR assays, the dynamic conversion of RT-PCR results (negative to positive, positive to negative, respectively) was analyzed as compared with serial chest CT scans for those with time-interval of 4 days or more.
Of 1014 patients, 59% (601/1014) had positive RT-PCR results, and 88% (888/1014) had positive chest CT scans. The sensitivity of chest CT in suggesting COVID-19 was 97% (95%CI, 95-98%, 580/601 patients) based on positive RT-PCR results. In patients with negative RT-PCR results, 75% (308/413) had positive chest CT findings; of 308, 48% were considered as highly likely cases, with 33% as probable cases. By analysis of serial RT-PCR assays and CT scans, the mean interval time between the initial negative to positive RT-PCR results was 5.1 ± 1.5 days; the initial positive to subsequent negative RT-PCR result was 6.9 ± 2.3 days). 60% to 93% of cases had initial positive CT consistent with COVID-19 prior (or parallel) to the initial positive RT-PCR results. 42% (24/57) cases showed improvement in follow-up chest CT scans before the RT-PCR results turning negative.
Chest CT has a high sensitivity for diagnosis of COVID-19. Chest CT may be considered as a primary tool for the current COVID-19 detection in epidemic areas.