“Being able to make the correct diagnosis earlier is a relief for the patient and for the physician”
When COVID-19 swept across Europe in the spring of 2020, as compared to most other EU countries, Sweden took a lax approach to the pandemic when it opted not to impose a national lockdown. Meanwhile, on the frontlines, healthcare workers experienced a situation unlike anything anyone had ever seen before. While COVID-19 infections and hospital admissions surged, healthcare professionals were forced to think of innovative ways to operate under unforeseen circumstances.
CT proved instrumental in helping physicians examine COVID-19 patients
In Södra Älvsborg hospital (SÄS) in Borås, in the Västra Götaland region on the western coast of Sweden, computed tomography (CT) proved instrumental in helping physicians examine COVID-19 patients. New CT technology has also helped the physicians improve the speed and accuracy of the diagnosis of many other diseases and conditions.
A radiologist at SÄS since 2014, Dr Anders Båth is responsible for CT at the hospital. One of the machines under Dr Båth’s care is GE Healthcare’s RevolutionTM CT, a modern CT scanner equipped with deep learning image reconstruction technology for TrueFidelityTM CT Images based on artificial intelligence.
Revolution CT has changed outcomes for many patients and, according to Anders Båth, it has also changed the way radiologists work at SÄS.
Anders Båth, radiologsy, Södra Älvsborg Hospital (SÄS), Sweden
CT image quality: A ’different as night and day’ experience
“It was a ’different as night and day’ experience”, describes Dr Båth of the first time he saw images produced by the new device.
“The image quality is excellent, even with low doses of radiation. We are not used to cutting the dose in half and still getting such good quality images.”
“We now also have access to so called thin-slice images with low noise. They are particularly useful when diagnosing liver abnormalities. Revolution CT works very well for the heart, lungs, and the chest area too.”
Less noise means better chance of detecting small abnormalities
“If there’s a lot of noise in the images, small changes disappear, but with less noise we have a much better chance of detecting even the smallest abnormalities."
“If there’s a lot of noise in the images, small changes disappear, but with less noise we have a much better chance of detecting even the smallest abnormalities. Previously we couldn’t always exclude the possibility of liver lesions, and we had to tell the patient they would need to come back for more exams. Patients sometimes had to wait several weeks for additional test results. Being able to make the correct diagnosis much earlier is a relief for the patient and for the physician,” Dr Båth says.
Low-dose thorax of 45-year-old female with suspected COVID-19. Thin slices (0,625mm) reconstructed with TrueFidelity. CTDI 1 mGy and DLP 40 mGy*cm.
When the number of patients with upper abdomen pain or chest or pulmonary symptoms surged in the spring of 2020, SÄS decided to use CT to help physicians examine them. The reason was practical:
“We wanted to get the patients scanned as soon as possible, so that we’d be able to catch potential COVID infections early on. We didn’t want patients who potentially carried the virus spending time in the hospital undiagnosed, possibly infecting many other people. The reason we opted for CT was the location of our Revolution CT machine: it is conveniently close to the hospital entrance. This meant we were able to get these patients scanned while minimizing contact with other people”, Dr Båth explains.
Benefits of CT scans for COVID patients – detecting signs early
“COVID looks quite typical in chest CT. Some other conditions, such as different types of pneumonia, may be more difficult to spot, but we soon learned that COVID-19 makes a somewhat typical pattern in the human lungs. You can actually sometimes detect signs of a COVID-19 infection in a CT image already before any symptoms appear,” Dr Båth explains.
“However, although diagnosing and examining how COVID-19 looks in the lungs is fairly straightforward, the next steps are more difficult: nobody knows exactly how to treat this strange disease yet.”
Treatment, transmission, and long-term impacts of the virus are just some of the many unknowns when it comes to the novel coronavirus. Luckily, modern technology can help. Improved image quality brought about by technological advances and utilization of artificial intelligence is helping healthcare professionals in Sweden and worldwide to diagnose and make decisions on increasing numbers of patients – with COVID-19 and many other conditions.
“If the pictures are better, our diagnoses will be better. And we are learning fast. In fact, I don’t think there have been many times in history when we have learned so much about a disease so fast in radiology as we have with COVID-19,” Dr Båth concludes.
As one of the hospital’s 30 radiologists, Dr. Anders Båth, was originally drawn to radiology because of his love for both technology and medicine.
”Radiology is an intriguing combination of both disciplines,” Dr Båth says.
About Södra Älvsborg hospital
The Södra Älvsborg hospital employs approximately 3,800 healthcare and other professionals and provides county medical care within all medical specialties. SÄS serves a population of over 300,000 people and handles a broad range of operations as well as research. The hospital is also heavily committed to education and training.