Radiography has played a key role in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Radiologists on the front lines of the outbreak have found chest x-ray to be a useful complement to other tools for diagnosing patients with COVID-19 and tracking their prognosis.
Among x-ray's advantages are its low cost and versatility, especially in an environment dominated by concerns about infection control. The important issue when using x-ray for COVID-19 is to know the limitations of the modality when making a diagnosis.
Imaging centers and group practices that are reopening during the continued presence of COVID-19 and the partial lockdown are faced with new challenges regarding patient safety and care. Many patients postponed nonurgent imaging procedures, resulting in a backlog of imaging studies.
The most notable change for imaging facilities and staff is the need to balance adequate infection control with sufficient patient volume. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the American College of Radiology (ACR) both recommend new safety measures, such as health screening and temperature checks, patients' use of face coverings, implementation of social distancing in waiting rooms, the use of personal protective equipment to protect staff, and cleaning and decontaminating patient care areas and imaging equipment according to guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).1,2
Taking care of patients in the midst of a pandemic can require a little ingenuity as well as science. During the COVID-19 outbreak, hospitals have developed creative solutions to provide radiology services in a way that keeps both patients and personnel safe.
These solutions can range from the low-tech -- such as glass barriers to separate patients from radiology personnel -- to the high-tech -- using artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to analyze medical images.