COVID-19 and the Radiology Department: Tips to Keep Everyone Safe
By now everyone knows about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pneumonia that emerged in December, 2019. Since then, this highly contagious virus has been spreading worldwide, with a rapid rise in the number of deaths. We’ve seen a variety of chest imaging features being reported, which are similar to those found in other types of coronavirus syndromes.
As with any respiratory-attacking virus, chest x-ray imaging is critical in assessing severity and disease progression of the infection. The increased usage of CT and chest portable x-ray imaging has pushed many radiology departments beyond capacity to keep up with the patients presenting with symptoms of COVID-19. During this intense time while healthcare workers struggle to diagnose and treat this novel coronavirus, implementation of a robust plan in the radiology department is crucial to prevent further transmission of the virus to patients and department staff members.
Recommended precautions for Radiology department
Among the first-line health care workers, radiographers are among those who might be exposed COVID-19 the earliest. Diagnostic imaging facilities should have guidelines in place to manage individuals with known or suspected COVID-19 infection as the virus is highly contagious and is believed to transmit mostly through respiratory droplets.
A thorough understanding of virus transmission will be essential for patients’ and health care professionals’ safety. Droplets have the greatest risk of transmission within 3 ft, but they may travel up to 6 ft from their source. For the purpose of diagnostic imaging, whenever possible portable chest x-ray and portable imaging equipment should be used to limit transportation of patients. If a patient needs to be transported to the radiology department, he or she should wear a surgical mask during transport to and from the department.
1. Use of a standard medical mask, unless aerosol-generating procedures are performed according to the World Health Organization.
2. Take airborne precautions and the use of a N95 mask or higher when in close contact with patients that have confirmed or are under investigation for COVID-19 as recommended by the CDC
3. Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment including a disposable isolation gown with fluid-resistant characteristics, a pair of disposable gloves with coverage over gown cuffs, eye protection with goggles and probably a face mask over goggles.
4. Thoroughly clean any surface that comes in contact with patients with soap and water or decontaminated using a low-level or intermediate-level disinfectant, such as iodophor germicidal detergent solution, ethyl alcohol, or isopropyl alcohol.
5. Specific training for environmental service staff members in regards to professional cleaning of potentially contaminated surfaces after each high-risk patient contact. Radiology departments should contact their equipment vendors to find the safest disinfectant for each piece of equipment in use. The customer service and support staff are on-call at Source-Ray, Inc.
In summary, the COVID-19 is an unprecedented global pandemic that has transformed all our lives, potentially forever. In particular, imaging facilities need to be prepared for the escalating incidence of new cases of COVID-19. If appropriately prepared, the radiology team can take greater measures to manage the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the facility and personnel. Activating a robust plan can provide protection against further transmission of the virus to patients and staff members.