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Chest Imaging Guidelines Released for Pediatric COVID-19

What your doctor is reading on Medscape.com:

APRIL 28, 2020 — Differences are emerging between chest imaging findings in adults and children with COVID-19 pneumonia, according to a new international consensus statement published online April 23 in Radiology: Cardiothoracic Imaging.

“Chest imaging plays an important role in evaluation of pediatric patients with COVID-19, however there is currently little information available describing imaging manifestations of pediatric COVID-19 and even less discussing utilization of imaging studies in pediatric patients,” write Alexandra M. Foust, DO, from the Department of Radiology, Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts, and colleagues.

The authors wrote the consensus statement to help clinicians evaluate children with potential COVID-19, interpret chest imaging findings, and determine the best treatment for these patients.

As a dedicated pediatric radiologist in tertiary care, senior author Edward Y. Lee, MD, MPH, also from Boston Children’s Hospital, said he works with many international pediatric chest radiologists, and the document provides an international perspective. Information on chest imaging for pediatric patients with COVID-19 is scarce, and clinicians are clamoring for information to inform clinical decisions, he said. He noted that the recommendations are practical and easy to use.

The first step in evaluating a child with suspected COVID-19 is to consider the larger clinical picture. “You really have to look at the patient as a person, and when you look at them, [consider] their underlying risk factors — some people we know are prone to have more serious infection from COVID-19 because they have underlying medical problems,” Lee said.

Certain findings on chest x-ray (CXR) are more specific for COVID-19 pneumonia, whereas CT is better for characterizing and confirming and for differentiating one lung infection from another, Lee explained.

Structured Reporting

Toward this end, the authors developed tables that provide standardized language to describe imaging findings in patients with suspected COVID-19 pneumonia. Advantages of this type of “structured reporting” include improved understanding and clarity between the radiologist and the ordering provider.

The authors note that structured reporting is likely to be most useful in regions where COVID-19 is highly prevalent. The COVID-19 imaging presentation in children overlaps with some other ailments, including influenza, e-cigarette vaping–associated lung injury, and eosinophilic lung disease. Thus, the use of structured reporting in low-incidence settings could lead to false positive findings.

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