When is medical imaging appropriate in respiratory tract infections?

There is a limited role for medical imaging in the diagnosis of respiratory tract infections. Prescribers should consider if the potential benefit outweighs the risk, and whether the results of diagnostic radiology will alter patient management.

Chest X-ray usually establishes the diagnosis of pneumonia in patients presenting with severe illness. Computed tomography (CT) may be considered when atypical, severe or chronic (lasting more than 12 weeks) sinusitis has failed to respond to medical treatment- discuss each case with, or refer the patient to, a specialist.

NPS Prescribing Practice Review 57 gives practical advice for health professionals about the role of imaging in diagnosing respiratory tract infections.

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