The flu epidemic of yesteryear: the role of radiology in 1918–20

adrian thomas

Dr Adrian Thomas

100 years ago the UK was facing a fast-moving outbreak of epidemic influenza pneumonia, known as the “Spanish Flu”.

Radiology played an important part in diagnosis, although the crisis was without the scientific knowledge, strategic management and communications we have today. Here, Dr Adrian Thomas explores the six patterns of infection in this unpredictable and powerful disease.

 

 

Radiology is playing a central role in the diagnosis of COVID-19 today, and 100 years ago was also playing an important role in the diagnosis and characterisation of the outbreak of epidemic influenza pneumonia of 1918–1920. A combination of fluoroscopy and radiography was then used, with the occasional utilisation of stereoscopy. The greatest pointer to a diagnosis of epidemic influenza pneumonia in a given patient was the presence of the epidemic, although there were some specific features to indicate the diagnosis. The etiological cause of influenza was not known at the time, being first discovered in pigs by Richard Shope in 1931.

Spanish flu

The epidemic of 1918 far exceeded previous ones in its intensity. It had a high mortality in young adults with the very young and very old being comparatively immune. The associated pneumonia was particularly virulent. In the case of the troopship The Olympic (sister ship of The Titanic) there were 5,951 soldiers on board. Initially there were 571 cases of acute respiratory disease, but within 3 weeks there were 1,668 cases. Of these, 32% had pneumonia, of which 59% died. In any locality the duration of the epidemic was from between 6–8 weeks, and approximately 40% of the population was affected (Osler, 1930).

Six patterns of infection were identified, with correlation of clinical, radiological and post-mortem findings (Sante, 1930., Shanks, et al. 1938). Dr Leroy Sante, the pioneer radiologist from St Louis, described epidemic influenza pneumonia as “the most lawless of the chest infections.” Abscess formation was seen frequently, and was commonly of the small and multiple type. Radiological changes were seen developing day by day, and clinical resolution needed at least six–eight weeks since there had commonly been lung destruction and healing by fibrosis needed to occur.

The patterns were:

Type 1: Peribronchial invasion with infiltrates that enlarge and become confluent forming small areas of consolidation (figures 1 & 2, below). This was not confined to one lobe, but could appear in all lobes as a true bronchopneumonia. This was similar in appearance to ordinary bronchopneumonia.

1Type 1, Influenza bronchopneumonia

Figure 1

2Type 1, Influenza bronchopneumonia_Viewed as from behind

Figure 2

Type 2: Peribronchial invasion with infiltrates that enlarge and become confluent to form solidification of an entire lobe (figure 3, below). The changes remained confined to a single lobe. It was viewed as a true bronchopneumonia but with a lobar distribution (“pseudolobar pneumonia”). Different lobes may be invaded one after another. The pseudolobar pattern was the commonest type, and could resolve without further spread. The presence of previous isolated infiltrates would distinguish this type from common lobar pneumonia. There was a tendency to break down with extensive cavitation.

3Type 2, or pseudo-lobular

Figure 3

Type 3: This starts as blotchy infiltrates that coalesced to form a general haziness over a part of a lung, suggesting a haematogenous origin (figures 4 and 5, below). At post-mortem this was found to be an atypical lobular pneumonia, a “diffuse pneumonitis”, that was so commonly seen during the influenza outbreak. It resembled the streptococcal (septic) pneumonia that was often seen in association with septicaemia when there was no epidemic. The spread was rapid, and the prognosis was poor. Death commonly occurred within the week.

4Type 3, resembling streptococcal (septic) pneumonia

Figure 4

5Type 3, resembling streptococcal (septic) pneumonia

Figure 5

Type 4: A type starting in the hilum and spreading rapidly into the periphery, the so-called “critical pneumonia” (figure 6, below). This was attended with a high mortality. Post-mortem showed a purulent and haemorrhagic infiltration around the larger bronchi. There was often marked cyanosis.

6Type 4, the so-called “critical pneumonia

Figure 6

Type 5: This started in the dependent part of the lungs, with continuous upwards spread (figures 7a and b, below). This was an atypical lobular pneumonia, there was no associated pleural fluid, and it was usually fatal. Initial infection in the costo-phrenic angle spread within 24 hours to involve the lower lung, and death occurred within 48 hours. Clinical features included extreme prostration, high temperature, and delirium. This pattern with rapidly advancing consolidation was seldom seen in other conditions.

7a Type 5. This started in the dependent part of the lungs

Figure 7a

7b Type 5. A film taken 12 hours after 7a

Figure 7b

Type 6. A true lobar pneumonia was only seen rarely.
The prognosis of epidemic influenza pneumonia was difficult to determine. So, as an example, a patient who was resolving would suddenly have changes extend into the other lung and then die. Another patient with successive involvement of all lobes could recover completely. A patient with only minor lung involvement might die, and another with extensive consolidation would recover completely.

Radiologists continue to be in the front line in the treatment of infectious diseases, and although our modalities are now more advanced than a century ago, their contributions remain essential. It is also noteworthy that the simple CXR also remains central.

Figures:

1. Type 1, Influenza bronchopneumonia. Image seen as a positive.

2. Type 1, Influenza bronchopneumonia. Peribronchial clusters of infiltration, with no relation to lobar architecture. Viewed as from behind.

3. Type 2, or pseudo-lobular.

4. Type 3, resembling streptococcal (septic) pneumonia. Image seen as a positive.

5. Type 3, resembling streptococcal (septic) pneumonia. Blotchy ill-defined infiltrates which coalesce to form a general haziness. Viewed as from behind.

6. Type 4, the so-called “critical pneumonia.”

7a. Type 5. This started in the dependent part of the lungs, and this early film shows consolidation in the costophrenic angle (black arrow).

7b. Type 5. A film taken 12 hours after 7a. The lower right lung is consolidated, and the patient died 12 hours later. Post mortem showed a solid lung with no effusion.
Readings:

Osler, William. (1930) The Principles and Practice of Medicine. 11th Edition, Thomas McCrae (Ed.). London: D Appleton.

Sante, Leroy. (1930) The Chest, Roentgenologically Considered. New York: Paul B Hoeber.

Shanks, S Cochrane., Kerley, Peter., Twining, Edward W. (Eds). (1938) A Textbook of X-ray Diagnosis by British Authors. London: H. K. Lewis.

 

Dr Adrian Thomas FRCP FRCR FBIR, BIR Honorary Historian

About Dr Adrian Thomas

Dr Adrian Thomas is a semi-retired radiologist and a visiting professor at Canterbury Christ Church University. He has been President of the Radiology Section of the Royal Society of Medicine, and of the British Society for the History of Medicine. He is the Honorary Historian to the British Institute of Radiology. He has had a long-term interest in role development in radiography, and teaches postgraduate radiographers.

Adrian has written extensively on the history of radiology writing many papers, books and articles. He has, with a colleague, written a biography of the first female radiologist and female hospital physicist: Adrian Thomas and Francis Duck: Edith and Florence Stoney, Sisters in Radiology (Springer Biographies) Springer; 1st ed. 2019 edition (1 July 2019).

© Thomas / 2020

Has imaging become too effective?

Adrian Dixon

Professor Adrian Dixon has a worldwide reputation as an academic and a radiologist and has published extensively on body and musculoskeletal CT and MR imaging.

He will deliver the BIR Toshiba Mayneord Eponymous Lecture called “Has imaging become too effective?” at UKRC on 7 June 2016 at 13:00.

Read this fascinating interview with him and get a taster of this “not-to-be-missed” presentation.

You will be delivering the BIR Toshiba Lecture at UKRC this June. Your lecture is called “Has imaging become too effective?” Can you give us a “taster” of what you mean by this?

“You should say what you mean!” as the March Hare said in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”.

What do people mean by “effective”? Effectiveness is only an appropriate term if qualified. Modern imaging certainly is effective at increasing the diagnostic confidence about a diagnosis and excluding certain diagnostic possibilities. It has taken a long while to prove that it is effective in saving lives. It has become so effective that, in many conditions, an image can be rendered to make the diagnosis obvious to the man in the street.

And clinicians now tend to refer for imaging without stopping to think! It has also become so effective in demonstrating probably innocuous lesions that the worried well can become even more of a hypochondriac! In some societies this can lead to over usage, excessive radiation exposure and increased costs.

If imaging is “too effective” – is radiology still a worthwhile career choice?

Yes! It is the most fascinating of all medical careers and every day a radiologist should see something that he or she has never quite seen before. The radiologist is the ultimate medical detective and cannot conceivably get bored. Indeed radiologists get reimbursed to solve crossword puzzles on elaborate play stations!

What have been the three biggest challenges for you in your career?

Radiologists have had to learn and relearn their skills at frequent intervals during their careers. Radiology will only survive as a specialty if the radiologist knows more about the images, the technical aspects and the interpretative pitfalls than their clinical colleagues.

Did you ever meet Godfrey Hounsfield (inventor of CT imaging) and what were your memories of him?

opening of scannerI did indeed meet Sir Godfrey on numerous occasions. His humility and “boffin style” of science greatly appealed. Some of the stories at the numerous events surrounding his memorial service were truly fascinating, including his inability to accept any machine which he could not understand without taking it to bits and then reassembling it!

 

Given the financial pressures on healthcare, will the required investment in the latest imaging technology be affordable?

Some of the developments in personalised medicine may be unaffordable. Generic contrast agents will continue to be used in large volumes. The cost of creating “one off” agents may prove unjustifiable.

Why would you encourage someone to join the BIR?

Because of the fun of interdisciplinary discussion and the pride of being a small part of the oldest radiological society!

Does spending more money on equipment mean a better health service?

I passionately believe that prompt access to imaging makes a major contribution to excellent healthcare. But that does not necessarily mean that every hospital has to have every machine at the top of the range. A rolling programme of equipment replacement is an essential part of delivering a high-quality radiological service.

The most difficult thing I’ve dealt with at work is…

An electrical power cut during the middle of a tricky adrenal CT-guided biopsy!

If Wilhelm Roentgen could time travel to Addenbrooke’s hospital, what would he be most impressed with?

The sheer size and the number of staff of the radiology department!

When its 2050, what will we say is the best innovation of the 21st century in healthcare?

Data mining and health statistics.

Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?

All my previous bosses have influenced my career. I have learnt something from each of them. All of them stimulated me to ask the question “why are we doing things this way”? “Can it be done better”?

My proudest achievement is…

Helping to make the Addenbrooke’s Radiology department one of the most modern in the UK.

What advice would you pass on to your successor?

Never give up, try, try and try again and remember “the more you practice, the luckier you get”.

What is the best part of your job?

That I have been lucky to have had a succession of challenges in the various roles that I have held, all of which have kept me on my toes.

What is the worst part of your job?

Leaving salt of the earth friends as I have moved from role to role.

If you could go back 20 years and meet your former self, what advice would you give yourself?

Do not worry so much – it will all be alright on the night.

Adrian Dixon

Adrian Dixon

What might we be surprised to know about you?

That I support Everton Football Club.

How would you like to be remembered?

For influencing the careers of younger colleagues – hopefully to their benefit!

260215 opening

Professor Dixon will deliver the BIR Toshiba Mayneord Eponymous Lecture called “Has imaging become too effective?” at UKRC on 7 June 2016 at 13:00.

Book your place at UKRC (early bird rate ends 15 April 2016)

 

Toshiba-leading-innovation-jpg-large Thank you to Toshiba for supporting the BIR Mayneord Eponymous Lecture

 

 

Making the case for radiographer reporting

SONY DSC

With a steady and sustained rise in imaging workloads driven by an ageing population, new and evolving technologies, and a drive for patient-focused care, radiology departments are turning to new ways to provide services. Nick Woznitza, Clinical Academic Reporting Radiographer at Homerton University Hospital, east London, and Canterbury Christ Church University, Kent, makes the case for radiology departments meeting these ever-increasing demands through radiographer reporting.

Using the example of his experience in the neonatal department of Homerton University Hospital he explains how, with robust research and training, and the appropriate use of skill mix, departments can offer a safe, efficient and patient-focused service.

Expansion of the neonatal medicine department at Homerton produced an increase in plain imaging workload and, coupled with a shortage of consultant paediatric radiologists, meant that the neonatal X-rays did not receive a timely definitive radiology report. The neonatal unit is a large, tertiary referral facility with 46 cots, 900 admissions and 13,600 cot/days per annum in 2013–2014. In order to provide an optimal service to these vulnerable patients, it was agreed to develop a radiographer-led plain imaging neonatal reporting service.

A bespoke, intensive training programme was designed in collaboration with radiology and neonatal medicine at Homerton, Canterbury Christ Church University and the paediatric radiology department of the Royal London Hospital. The radiographer was already an established reporting radiographer, interpreting skeletal and adult chest X-rays in clinical practice, so the training programme focused on the unique physiology and pathology of neonates. Training consisted of self-directed learning, pathology and film viewing tutorials, practice reporting, and attendance at the neonatal X-ray meeting at the Royal London Hospital. This immersive experience was achieved via secondment for one and a half days a week.
Upon qualification of the reporting radiographer, all reports were double read by a consultant paediatric radiologist, to successfully manage the transition into practice whilst maintaining patient safety in line with best practice recommendations.

To ensure that the performance of the trained reporting radiographer was comparable to that of a consultant paediatric radiologist a small research study was conducted (Woznitza et al, 2014), supported by research funding from the International Society of Radiographers and Radiographic Technologists (ISRRT). This study confirmed only a small number of clinically significant reporting radiographer discrepancies (n = 5, 95% accuracy), comparable to the performance of the paediatric radiologists. This study provided further evidence that the introduction of radiographer neonatal plain imaging reporting has not adversely impacted patient safety or care.

Activity figures (July 2011 – September 2014) were obtained from the radiology information system to determine the number of X-ray examinations performed and the proportion receiving a radiographer report. An average of 285 X-rays were performed each month, however, there was a marked increase in March 2012 from 158/month (July 2011 – February 2012) to 328/month (March 2012 – September 2014). The radiographer has made a sustained, significant contribution to the reporting service, interpreting an average of 92.5% of the X-ray examinations and responsible for >95% of examinations in 20 of the 36 months.

Building on the collaboration between radiology and neonatal medicine, a weekly neonatal X-ray meeting was introduced. Facilitated by the reporting radiographer and paediatric radiologist, this forum has increased radiology–clinician engagement and in turn patient care, facilitated discussions and acts as an excellent educational resource. Recognising the importance of this meeting, the senior neonatal clinicians requested that the reporting radiographer convene the meeting when the paediatric radiologist is absent on leave.

The introduction of a radiographer neonatal X-ray reporting service demonstrates that, with collaboration and support, novel approaches can help provide solutions to increasing activity in radiology in an effective, efficient and patient focused manner without compromise on patient safety. Collaboration and team work are fundamental when undertaking service delivery change. The support of both the radiology department, under the leadership of Dr Susan Rowe, and the neonatal unit, led by Dr Zoe Smith with mentorship from Dr Narendra Aladangady, has been essential in the success of this service.

Nick Woznitza biography
Nick qualified as a diagnostic radiographer from the University of South Australia and, following several roles in rural and remote Australia, moved to the UK in 2005.

An accredited consultant radiographer with the College of Radiographers, Nick reports a range of plain imaging examinations including skeletal, chest and neonatal X-rays. He has recently taken up a clinical academic radiography role at Homerton University Hospital and Canterbury Christ Church University, with this blended role facilitating image interpretation teaching to radiographers and other health professionals and his research into the accuracy and impact of radiographer reporting.

Reference
Woznitza N, Piper K, Iliadis K, Prakash R, Santos R, Aladangady N. Agreement In Neonatal X-ray Interpretation: A Comparison Between Consultant Paediatric Radiologists and a Reporting Radiographer. International Society of Radiographers and Radiographic Technologists 18th World Congress. June 2014; Helsinki, Finland, 2014.

Diagnostic Imaging and Patient Choice

Peter Harrison 120 x 100

Peter Harrison

In the first of our guest blogs, Peter Harrison, Managing Director of Siemens Healthcare Sector, talks about how patient choice is driving a requirement for transparency of clinical performance.

The prevalence of internet usage has had a profound impact on patients’ engagement with their own health. Ask any GP and they will tell you stories of patients presenting to them with a confident (often inaccurate) self diagnosis of their conditions based upon internet research. While I am sure that this can frequently be unhelpful, surely the net impact of patients taking more interest in their health must be celebrated?

The internet has empowered consumers. Parents can now easily check Ofsted reports to establish the highest performing schools, and consumer guides before making purchasing decisions. The writing is on the wall—patients and carers will increasingly (and appropriately) position themselves as healthcare consumers and will demand the information to make informed choices on healthcare provision. GPs will provide counsel, but increasingly, patients and carers will also seek direct access to information. We are already starting to see greater transparency of clinical performance at a surgeon level. A good example can be found at the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery website (http://www.scts.org), where risk-adjusted mortality rates can be viewed down to discrete surgeons, set against a scatter graph plot of their contemporaries.

I anticipate that a similar trend will apply to diagnostic imaging. Consumer demand will drive increased transparency of performance and a range of measures to enable patients and carers to make more informed decisions when exercising choice of provider. Those measures will likely extend to facets of modality performance that support accurate diagnosis (such as spatial and temporal resolution), but I also expect patients to be take a greater interest in wider facets of the imaging experience, such as safety and comfort. When considering modalities that utilise ionising radiation, patients may well want to understand what dose they are likely to receive during a scan. Not unreasonable, but there will also be a responsibility to help patients understand that the radiology team will need to appropriately balance minimisation of dose with the diagnostic quality to ensure appropriate specificity and sensitivity. Perhaps patients will want to establish what dose-reducing technologies are available within the imaging department and the extent to which the technologies are appropriately deployed?

Beyond traditional clinical quality and safety, issues of accessibility will also be of interest, with respect to both waiting times and bariatric considerations. What kind of experience might they expect with regards to patient care and comfort?

As the NHS adopts greater plurality of service provision and extends choice of provider to patients, successful imaging service providers will seek to differentiate themselves by affording due consideration to equipment selection and standards of service. I expect that those who are sensitive to these dynamics will be those who thrive and deliver a sustainable service, dependent upon both clinical referral and patient choice.

Peter Harrison is Managing Director, Siemens Healthcare sector, UK