Respiratory tract infections — when is medical imaging appropriate?

  • There is a limited role for medical imaging in the diagnosis of respiratory tract infection. In patients presenting with severe illness, chest X-ray is indicated to establish a diagnosis of pneumonia.[1]
  • Consider if the potential benefit outweighs the risk — will the results of diagnostic radiology alter patient management?[2]
  • Computed tomography (CT) may be considered when atypical, severe or chronic (lasting more than 12 weeks) sinusitis has failed to respond to medical treatment.[1,2]
  • Consider risk associated with radiation exposure — a CT scan of the head exposes a patient to about 2.3 millisieverts of ionising radiation, equivalent to about 115 chest X-rays.[3]