Objective: To assess sensitivity/specificity of CT vs RT-PCR for the diagnosis of COVID-19 pneumonia in a prospective Italian cohort of symptomatic patients during the outbreak peak. Methods: In this cross-sectional study, we included all consecutive patients who presented to the ER between March 13 and 23 for suspected COVID-19 and underwent CT and RT-PCR within 3 days. Using a structured report, radiologists prospectively classified CTs in highly suggestive, suggestive, and non-suggestive of COVID-19 pneumonia. Ground-glass, consolidation, and visual extension of parenchymal changes were collected. Three different RT-PCR-based reference standard definitions were used. Oxygen saturation level, CRP, LDH, and blood cell counts were collected and compared between CT/RT-PCR classes. Results: The study included 696 patients (41.4% women; age 59 ± 15.8 years): 423/454 (93%) patients with highly suggestive CT, 97/127 (76%) with suggestive CT, and 31/115 (27%) with non-suggestive CT had positive RT-PCR. CT sensitivity ranged from 73 to 77% and from 90 to 94% for high and low positivity threshold, respectively. Specificity ranged from 79 to 84% for high positivity threshold and was about 58% for low positivity threshold. PPV remained ≥ 90% in all cases. Ground-glass was more frequent in patients with positive RT-PCR in all CT classes. Blood tests were significantly associated with RT-PCR and CT classes. Leukocytes, lymphocytes, neutrophils, and platelets decreased, CRP and LDH increased from non-suggestive to suggestive CT classes. Conclusions: During the outbreak peak (in a high-prevalence setting), CT presented high PPV and may be considered a good reference to recognize COVID-19 patients while waiting for RT-PCR confirmation. Key Points: • During the epidemic peak, CT showed high positive predictive value and sensitivity for COVID-19 pneumonia when compared with RT-PCR. • Blood tests were significantly associated with RT-PCR and CT classes.
- Polymerase Chain Reaction
- Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2
- Tomography, X-ray computed
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging