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AIIMS chief Randeep Guleria warns CT scan in mild Covid cases may do more harm than good

On Monday AIIMS Director Dr. Randeep Guleria warned against the indiscriminate prescription of steroids, as well as CT scans and tests, for those with mild symptoms. Guleria, a member of the national task force on Covid-19, said hospitals were seeing mild patients who had consumed steroids, triggering virus replication and causing a drop in oxygen levels. “We have to understand that taking steroids at the early stage can give more stimulus to virus replication. In many cases, mild cases are becoming severe and patients are reporting severe pneumonia. Steroids have no role in the first five days of illness,” Guleria said. He added, for moderate disease, only three specific treatments are effective, “First is oxygen therapy; second, when the illness is moderate and oxygen saturation is low, then there is a role for steroids; third is anticoagulants because we know Covid-19 pneumonia is a little different from viral pneumonia and promotes the clotting of blood. There could be blood clots in the lungs resulting in a drop in blood saturation. Again, in mild illness, there is no role for anticoagulants”.

“Patients must undertake these tests only when they have a moderate illness and on the basis of advice by doctors. There is a possibility of overtreatment due to unnecessary reliance on biomarkers. Many people are getting CT scans done on getting a positive report. We are also seeing people getting scans every three-four days. We are exposing the body to radiation. There is no benefit of CT scan in mild disease, or if you are in home isolation and have normal oxygen levels. Studies have shown that in 30-40% of asymptotic patients, some patches will show in CT reports, however, they recover on their own without any treatment,” the doctor said.

Guleria said by underlining other risks of CT scans, “One CT scan is equal to getting 300-400 chest X-rays. There is data from the International Atomic Energy, which deals with radiation protection and medicine, that conducting CT scan multiple times increases the risk of cancer in later life, especially in the younger age group.”

Talking On biomarkers, the doctor added, “Those testing positive are undergoing blood tests for C-reactive protein (CRP), complete blood count, D dimer. Again for mild illness and when oxygen saturation is under control, there is no requirement for these blood tests. These only cause a panic reaction. These biomarkers are for acute phase reactants, which means that whenever there is inflammation, these will increase. We don’t come to know if the infection is spreading. People think they should take steroids if CRP is more, this causes more damage.”

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