Chinese expert volunteers dispatched by the Red Cross Society of China taught Chinese experience to Iraqi radiologists on how to diagnose COVID-19 by using the Computed Tomography machine (CT machine), contributing to the local fight against the epidemic.
“Officials of the Iraqi Ministry of Health and local medical staff are willing to learn Chinese experience against COVID-19 and have rapidly implemented our advice,” Chen Huai, one of the expert volunteers who is the chief radiologist of the First Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University in South China’s Guangdong Province, told the Global Times on Sunday.
The Baghdad Teaching Hospital, the biggest hospital in Baghdad which holds 1,150 beds and three CT machines, only gave CT scans to five patients a day, Chen learned during his first visit on March 10.
Local radiologists don’t know how the CT machine can help with the diagnosis of COVID-19. Febrile patients were told to obtain nucleic acid testing directly without CT scans, Chen explained.
“However, if the diagnosis only relies on nucleic acid testing, many COVID-19 patients cannot be confirmed because of the shortage of test kits,” he noted.
Moreover, there have also been cases in China where nucleic acid tests were negative, but lung lesions caused by COVID-19 were detected by CT.
Chen suggested that local medical staff scan ferible patients first and then carry out nucleic acid tests. Diagnosis combining nucleic acid tests and CT scans is more accurate.
The Baghdad Teaching Hospital accepted his advice and gave CT scans to around 30 to 35 patients a day, when Chen visited it on April 1. “It is not easy and marks a big progress for local radiologists. I normally scan around 65 patients a day in my hospital in China. Iraqi medical staff have a relative shorter working time than their Chinese counterparts,” he said.
Chen also taught local radiologists how to identify COVID-19 through lung films, which Chinese doctors have accumulated and summarized from thousands of cases.
There is ground-glass opacity in the lung film of COVID-19 patients. Some show a consolidation shadow and reticular shadow. Several patients also develop pleural effusion. Pulmonary fibrosis occurs in some severe cases at the later stage.
Chinese expert volunteers also suggested local hospitals treat COVID-19 suspected patients with a separate CT machine and carry out disinfection after every patient by wiping the CT machine with medical alcohol and sterilizing the air in the radiation room.
“Local hospitals are not yet equipped to separate doctors and patients during treatment. However, radiologists have been advised to do work shifts, and they are careful to isolate themselves after contact with a confirmed patient,” Chen noted. He is worried for the safety of Iraqi medical staff as they still suffer from the shortage of protective outfits.
Chen was touched by the trust and determination of local officials of medical institutions. The head of the health bureau in Basra province in south Iraq signed an administrative order, asking local hospitals to follow Chinese experts’ advice after consulting with them.
Chinese expert volunteers have assisted in rebuilding a radiation room in Baghdad Cancer Center, one of the three designated hospitals for COVID-19 in Baghdad, according to Chen. One new CT machine donated by China will arrive around April 8, to be equipped in this radiation room.
At the request of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, seven-member Chinese volunteer medical team was dispatched by the Red Cross Society of China and arrived in Baghdad on March 8 with medical supplies.