COVID-19 and Ventilation/Perfusion (V/Q) Lung Studies

March 19, 2020

As we all do our best to avoid the spread of COVID-19 while continuing to provide the best care for our patients, we would like to respond to concerns regarding ventilation/perfusion (V/Q) lung scans and the risk inherent in the V/Q scan for spread of COVID-19 to patients and staff alike.

Because many ventilation systems are difficult to completely disinfect and because there are still unknowns about the transmissibility of COVID-19, some institutions have elected to eliminate entirely the ventilation portion of the V/Q study. When lung perfusion images show no evidence of pulmonary thromboembolism, it essentially rules out acute pulmonary embolism, and no further studies are needed. While it is recognized that not performing paired ventilation images will eliminate important information about airway physiology, it is felt by some to be the most judicious action until the COVID-19 pandemic can be better understood.  

Local health care facility policy should be the primary source of guidance as to the handling of patients with and without suspected COVID-19 infection; however, it is also prudent to clarify with the referring physician the COVID-19 status of all patients referred for imaging in your nuclear medicine facility. When possible, particularly when treating patients with known or suspected COVID-19 infection, all technologists should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when interacting with such patients and be encouraged to wear a surgical mask when caring for those who are not at high risk.

SNMMI will continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and provide updated information whenever possible.