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Coronavirus Explainers

Coronavirus Outbreak Explained: Do All COVID-19 Patients Need CT Scans?

Doctors advise against getting a CT scan for COVID-19 patients unless there is a severity in symptoms

COVID-19 Explained: Do All COVID-19 Patients Need CT Scans?
  • CT scan is not for mild COVID cases: Dr Randeep Guleria
  • CT scan exposure can cause cancer in the later life: Dr Randeep Guleria
  • Monitoring regular symptoms is enough for diagnosis of COVID-19: Expert

New Delhi: There has been an ongoing debate  among the healthcare workers, on whether and when a COVID patient needs to get a CT scan done. AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria recently warned of the misuse of CT scans and biomarkers by patients having mild COVID-19 symptoms. He said that the overuse of CT scans increases exposure to radiation that in turn escalates the risk of cancer.

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A study showed that a CT scan of an asymptomatic person and found that 30-40 per cent asymptomatic patients also had patches in the lungs and recover on its own.

He further said that one CT scan is equivalent to 300-400 chest X-rays and this increases the risk of having cancer in later life, especially among the youth, as one is exposed to harmful radiation.

If you are in doubt, then go for a chest X-ray first. If necessary, the doctor will give proper advice whether a CT scan is needed or not, Dr Guleria had said.

NDTV spoke with Dr Mrinal Sircar, Head, Pulmonology at Fortis Hospital, Noida, about when is it necessary to get CT scans and whether doctors are advising it indiscriminately as suggested by Dr Guleria.

For mild COVID patients, there’s absolutely no indication that they need a CT Scan. Only severe patients who are admitted in the hospitals, some of them may need a CT scan as part of their treatment to decide how serious their disease is and if there are any complications. Mild cases getting a CT scan is completely unnecessary, in terms of both money and radiations that they are facing.

There are times when what is thought to be a mild case, turns out to be pneumonia or some serious lung patches, which is revealed in the CT scan. So people feel that it may help them fight the virus. To this concern, Dr Sircar says that a CT scan is not the only indicator for this. He explains,

I don’t think only the scan can help you identify the severity. Condition of the patient, factors like oxygen levels, temperature, breathlessness can say a lot about the case. CT scan is completely unnecessary people as it scares them and causes anxiety.

Also Read: COVID-19 Spreads To Rural India, Villages Ill-Equipped To Fight It

NDTV also spoke to Dr Vijay Surase, Interventional Cadiologist, Jupiter Hospital, who says that most cases with the new mutation turn out to be negative in RTPCR tests, so they are forced to turn to CT scans. He said,

Only diagnostic test that can give you a clue about this viral illness today is through CT scan. But when experts say the CT scan is being overused, I think there is no other modality by which we can diagnose at this stage. But doing the CT scan for a person multiple times can expose a person to risk. This is one of the best test to properly diagnose this illness.

Dr Sircar says that a lot of misinformation floating around could also be behind the misuse of CT scans. He said,

When the pandemic is raging around us, and based on the simplest symptoms alone, we can treat this illness even while we wait for RT-PCR. I would like to assert that a CT scan is necessary only for severe patients.

Dr Surase says that the variant that has caused the second wave may be highly transmissible but is not as lethal.

The second wave is not very lethal but rapid change in the clinical picture is happening. But this time people are not getting the classical COVID-pneumonia or dangerous patches. It is similar to a common cold and those who feel breathless should be seeing physicians. Those who become very breathless, are the ones who may need a CT scans, he concluded.

Also Read: Organ Transplant Recipients Vulnerable To COVID-19 Even After Vaccination: Study

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