Background: Chest computed tomography (CT) scan has been used widely to diagnose COVID-19 in Iran.
Objectives: To trace the footsteps of COVID-19 in Iran by exploring the trend in using chest CT scans and its economic impact on radiology departments. Methods: In this cross-sectional study, the number of imaging examinations from 33 tertiary radiology departments in 9 large cities of Iran was collected from September 23, 2019 to March 20, 2020 (Months 1 to 6) and the corresponding months in 2018–2019.
Results: A 50.2% increase was noted in the chest CT scan utilization in 2019–2020 compared to 2018–2019. This increase was +15%, +15%, +27%, +2%, +1% in Months 1–5 of 2019–2020, respectively. In Month 6 of 2019–2020, a 251% increase in the acquisition of chest CT scans was observed compared to the Month 6 of 2018–2019. Following negative balance of revenue from Month 1 to 5 with respect to the inflation rate, the total income in Month 6 was further 1.5% less than the same Month in 2018–19.
Conclusion: The observed peak in chest CT utilization in Month 3 prior to the surge in Month 6 could be explained by the seasonal influenza. However, unawareness about an emerging viral disease, i.e. COVID-19, might have underutilized chest CT in Months 4 and 5 before the official announcement in Month 6. The unbalanced increase in the workload of radiology departments in the shortage of cardiothoracic radiologists with the simultaneous decrease in income initiated a vicious cycle that worsened the economic repercussions of the pandemic.