Stroke scans could detect COVID-19 infection

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In a new study, researchers have found that COVID-19 may be diagnosed on the same emergency scans intended to diagnose stroke.

The emergency scans captured images of the top of the lungs where a fluffiness known as ‘ground-glass opacification’ allowed COVID-19 to be diagnosed.

The findings have important implications in the management of patients presenting with suspected stroke through early identification of COVID-19.

The research was conducted by a team from King’s College London.

In the study, 225 patients were examined from three London Hyper-Acute Stroke Units. The emergency stroke scan consisted of computed tomography (CT) of the head and neck blood vessels.

The results show that when the team saw these changes in the top of the lungs during the emergency scan, they were able to reliably and accurately diagnose COVID-19 and the changes also predicted increased mortality.

The team says this is particularly relevant given the limitations of currently available COVID-19 reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing as it takes time to complete the test and sometimes it is inaccurate.

Additionally, the data have prognostic information given the increased mortality in those with lung changes shown in the study.

These are useful results because the changes are simple for radiologists and other doctors to see. This is “free information” from a scan intended for another purpose yet extremely valuable.

Primarily, the findings allow earlier selection of the appropriate level of personal protective equipment (PPE) and attendant staff numbers, triage to appropriate inpatient ward settings, self-isolation, and contact tracing.

One author of the study is Dr. Tom Booth, Senior Lecturer in Neuroimaging.

The study is published in the American Journal of Neuroradiology.

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