The goal of this study was to assess chest computed tomography (CT) diagnostic accuracy in clinical practice using RT-PCR as standard of reference.
From March 4th to April 9th 2020, during the peak of the Italian COVID-19 epidemic, we enrolled a series of 773 patients that performed both non-contrast chest CT and RT-PCR with a time interval no longer than a week due to suspected SARS-CoV-2 infection. The diagnostic performance of CT was evaluated according to sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV), negative predictive value (NPV) and diagnostic accuracy, considering RT-PCR as the reference standard. An analysis on the patients with discrepant CT scan and RT-PCR result and on the patient with both negative tests was performed.
RT-PCR testing showed an overall positive rate of 59.8 %. CT sensitivity, specificity, PPV, NPV, and accuracy for SARS-CoV-2 infection were 90.7 % [95 % IC, 87.7%-93.2%], 78.8 % [95 % IC, 73.8-83.2%], 86.4 % [95 % IC, 76.1 %-88.9 %], 85.1 % [95 % IC, 81.0 %-88.4] and 85.9 % [95 % IC 83.2-88.3%], respectively. Twenty-five/66 (37.6 %) patients with positive CT and negative RT-PCR results and 12/245 (4.9 %) patients with both negative tests were nevertheless judged as positive cases by the clinicians based on clinical and epidemiological criteria and consequently treated.
In our experience, in a context of high pre-test probability, CT scan shows good sensitivity and a consistently higher specificity for the diagnosis of COVID-19 pneumonia than what reported by previous studies, especially when clinical and epidemiological features are taken into account.
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