Chest x-ray as first line diagnostic tool in COVID-19

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COVID-19 is the most talked about disease worldwide today due to its fatal nature. It started as an epidemic and in no time became the pandemic. Investigations, diagnostic criteria and treatment regimen all kept changing as and how the disease showed up. One of the few very pivotal entities seen in COVID-19 is the chest radiograph.

chest x ray

In the suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients chest imaging played a significant role by helping in early diagnosis and the treatment planning. Most of the COVID-19 patients showed typical findings of pneumonia on Chest X-ray.

Though CT scan of the chest is more reliable for COVID-19 diagnosis but it is not a readily available resource. Even when it is available it is not as feasible as an x-ray for patients and it requires detailed training for quick diagnosis. On the other hand chest x-ray is an easier way to immediately diagnose COVID-19 when suspected and should be promoted as a tool.

Chest x-ray has a reasonably good sensitivity and can be used as an empirical method in the emergency setting, reducing risk of ICU admission.

The findings seen most frequently are the airspace opacity described as consolidation or ground-glass opacity present bilaterally on the lower lobe mainly. 

COVID 19 is spreading globally very rapidly and massively. The whole medical fraternity is under pressure to deal with this deadly pandemic and hence it is very important for radiologists to wisely use chest X-ray to raise the suspicion instantly if imaging features are present, unlike the other investigations which require a specific time period (24-48 hours) to confirm the diagnosis.

Thus chest x-ray can be used as first line diagnostic tool and can help to prevent the spread of infection to some extent, by warning the suspected candidates to avoid further contact with others until the final diagnosis is made. 

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