The recent statement by the AIIMS Chief Dr Randeep Guleria cautioning against CT scans even in the case of mild COVID-19 cases is an eye-opener for many of us making a beeline at the imaging centres. The expert doctor in a statement said that one CT scan is equivalent to undergoing 300 to 400 x-rays and has strongly advised against it for those with mild coronavirus symptoms as it may up the risk of cancer, if misused.

Citing a study Dr Guleria further added that a CT scan both in mild and asymptomatic cases can show patches which go away on their own without any treatment. He strongly advised opting for a CT scan only in case of moderate to severe COVID-19 symptoms that might require hospitalization. “Repeated scans in young age groups increase the risk of cancer in later life. A CT scan is not required if oxygen saturation is at normal level. If you have a doubt, go for a chest x-ray,” he said.
Doctor looking at the x-ray

And if you are wondering, what exactly is a CT scan and who should go for it, here are the details.

Also Read: Pulse Oximeter: Benefits, Readings And How It Works

What Is A CT-Scan?

Computer Tomography also known as CT Scan or CAT scan is a diagnostic tool that uses a combination of x-rays and computer imaging allowing doctors to see the condition of organs, bones, blood vessels and tissues. A CT Scan can be done on any body part, it is a non-invasive, painless procedure which gives detailed images.

During this diagnostic procedure, the patient should lie down on the table and the CT Scan machine uses a narrow X-ray beam that circles around the required body part, taking images from different angles. These images are then processed by the computer for creating cross-sectional pictures, which projects a ‘slice’ of inside of your body.
Patient undergoing CT Scan

Why Is A CT Scan Performed?

A CT Scan is prescribed for various reasons including:

  • Diagnosing fractures, disorders and infections
  • Identify the exact location of tumours and masses including malignant ones
  • Learn about the blood vessels and other internal structural abnormalities.
  • Locate the site of internal bleeding or injury
  • CT Scan is also used as an aid during surgeries and while performing tricky biopsies.

How To Prepare For Chest CT?

If you are COVID-19 positive and if your doctor has prescribed for a CT-scan, do not panic.

Ask the doctor if you are permitted to eat or drink prior to the scan and take medications, if any.

Take all precautions that are required by coronavirus patient. If you are going with a family member without coronavirus infection, make sure to use PPE suit.

Maintain social distance and use copious amounts of hand sanitizer.  

What Are The CT Signs of Coronavirus Pneumonia?

In the patients with coronavirus, the radiologist looks for Ground glass Opacity (GGO). If the findings reveal patchy, bilateral, peripheral and subpleural markings, a scoring is given based on the severity for the doctor can decide on the further course of treatment.

Who Needs A CT Scan?

“Patients should go for a CT Scan only if severe symptoms persist even after 4 to 5 days after testing positive. Low levels of oxygen or Happy Hypoxia should never be ignored and patients with low SpO2 would require an immediate CT scan for deciding upon the further course of treatment,” says Dr S Manoj, Senior Interventional Cardiologist from Chennai.

People with mild symptoms should self-isolate and practice home quarantine till all the symptoms subside and test negative,” he adds.

In these tough times, all of us should practice restraint and be determined to fight virus. Do your bit by not self-prescribing tests, medications even if you are mildly symptomatic. Always seek doctor’s advice.