RSNA Responds to COVID-19 Outbreak With Rapid Publication of Original Research and Images

Radiology Editorial Board leads effort to fast-track free COVID-19 resources

Abbara, Suhny
Bluemke, David
Klein, Jeffrey
Li, Xiahou
Moy, Linda

The spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has escalated quickly  with hundreds of thousands of confirmed cases reported globally.  CT is playing an important role in symptomatic hospitalized patients with COVID-19 and with specific clinical indications.

As the role of medical imaging in the management of COVID19 evolves, David A.  Bluemke, MD, PhD,  editor of Radiology, recognized the  opportunity to provide much-needed COVID-19 research quickly.

Researchers from around the world began to submit original research and images on COVID-19. As of the end of March, Radiology had received more than 500 papers on COVID-19. To put that in perspective, in a typical month, Radiology receives 250 papers across all major areas of radiology.  The Radiology review cycle can take six months from submission to publication. Dr. Bluemke knew that a normal review cycle would not work during the COVID-19 outbreak and that the research and images needed to be published as quickly as possible.

“The Radiology Editorial Board created new processes for immediate – within 12-24 hours – triage of all articles on COVID-19 and the RSNA publications staff developed a COVID-19 Special Focus webpage that houses all original research, images and commentaries,” Dr. Bluemke said. 

Mark Schiebler, MD, deputy editor, Radiology Thoracic Imaging section, led the immediate review of all submissions for potential publication. Along with  Dr. Bluemke, Dr. Schiebler, Linda Moy, MD, senior deputy editor, Radiology, and  Jeff Kanne, MD, professor of radiology, chief of thoracic imaging and vice chair of quality, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, WI, designated an expert panel of thoracic radiologists who were committed to review within 24 hours of key submissions.

In addition, the Radiology Editorial Board reached out to the editors of RSNA’s online journal, Radiology: Cardiothoracic Imaging, to create a joint review and publishing schedule.

“Chest CT and X-ray have quickly emerged as adjunct tests for specific clinical indications. It is important for radiologists around the world to recognize the typical but also the unusual chest CT manifestations of COVID-19. This is exactly where Radiology: Cardiothoracic Imaging plays a key role in conjunction with other RSNA resources,” said Suhny Abbara, MD, editor of Radiology: Cardiothoracic Imaging. “It has been critical that we deliver an extremely fast response while at the same time maintaining excellence and high editorial standards.” 

Papers were reviewed, edited and sent back to the authors for review within two days of submission. Most authors were able to respond within 24 hours, allowing the RSNA publications staff to post the articles online within a day of final  acceptance. So far, all COVID-19 articles have been published online within three to seven days of submission. RSNA staff has committed to posting translations of key articles in Chinese and Farsi. 

“The COVID-19 outbreak demonstrates the vital role that medical journals play in saving lives now and improving the way the health care field responds to outbreaks,” Dr. Moy, said. “The RSNA COVID-19 collection is intended to be a valuable resource for the global radiology community. These articles will help the radiologist rapidly understand and recognize the imaging features of COVID-19 and facilitate the accurate diagnosis of this disease.”

As RT-PCR tests became more widely available and cases continued to increase, the next critical need was for radiology departments to have the policies and procedures in place to maintain effective operations through a health care emergency. In March, Radiology published guidance on radiology department preparedness, describing the policies in place at seven different hospitals to assist radiology departments in preparing for COVID-19.

Published research is also educating the public on the fast-moving virus. Several of the Radiology studies have received national and international media coverage, including articles in The New York Times, Yahoo! News, BBC News Online, U.S. News & World Report, The Independent and FOX News Online.

COVID-19 Special Focus

“RSNA made the decision early to provide all the COVID-19 resources for free so that radiologists could review the research or see the images any time,” said Jeffrey S. Klein, MD, RSNA board liaison for publications and communications and editor of RadioGraphics. “With members in more than 130 countries around the world, RSNA has a responsibility to ensure that its COVID-19 research and education is available to help guide members and other physicians caring for patients during this rapidly evolving medical crisis.”  

Dr. Bluemke also accelerated the production of his podcasts, which are typically produced once a month. 

“So far, we have produced three COVID-19 special report podcasts that are between five to eight minutes long — just enough to help our colleagues grasp the rapidly changing environment,” Dr. Bluemke said.

A recent Radiology Letter to the Editor from a team of radiologists at The First Affiliated Hospital of Anhui Medical University, Anhui, China, emphasized the value of COVID-19 radiology research and podcasts for their practice. 

When the radiologists started seeing COVID-19 cases at their hospital in late January, the team immediately went to the Radiology website to review the imaging manifestations of viral pneumonia and to see if there were any imaging findings of COVID-19.

“We have found this website to be an exceptionally valuable resource that provides the global radiology community with unrestricted access to key research to help prevent the spread of this disease,” said Xiaohu Li, MD, PhD, staff radiologist at The First Affiliated Hospital of Anhui Medical University. “Our team particularly learned from the COVID19 Spectrum of Imaging Manifestations, which helped us in our clinical work to diagnose and manage suspected patients especially when the RT-PCR was negative.”

Users have visited the Radiology Special Focus webpage in much higher numbers than usual. Most articles have been downloaded 15 to 30 times more than an average research article published in Radiology. One of the first case reports on chest CT for COVID-19 has been downloaded more than 95,000 times. 

“The rapid response of the Radiology Editorial Board and the RSNA Publications staff has been instrumental in ensuring that current and clinically relevant research on COVID-19 is published quickly and efficiently,” Dr. Bluemke said. “Our goal has been to help radiologists on the front lines of this outbreak to have impactful information in order to provide the best patient care in a fast-changing environment.”

Check out the RSNA Infographic for details about RSNA Publications rapid response to COVID-19. 

Access RSNA Resources on COVID-19

A growing roster of RSNA resources on COVID-19 are keeping radiologists informed.

Radiology research is posted in a Special Focus section at Resources include:

  March 2020 Radiology report, “Radiology Department Preparedness for COVID-19: Radiology Scientific  Expert Panel.”

  Radiology and Radiology: Cardiothoracic Imaging are publishing original research about coronavirus in a Special Focus section. There is also a Spectrum of Imaging Findings flip-through slide show featuring the images and captions from the available Radiology and Radiology: Cardiothoracic Imaging studies.

  Radiology and Radiology: Cardiothoracic Imaging are publishing editorials and commentaries on COVID-19.

  The webinar, “Radiology preparedness for COVID-19: Radiology Scientific Expert Science Panel,” is posted to the RSNA YouTube channel (@RSNAtube) and is available in the RSNA Online Learning Center. To claim CME credit for the on-demand webinar, visit