Prolonged Covid Effects: MRI Studies Uncover Further Insight into Symptoms

Individuals experiencing long-term effects of Covid, particularly those who had been hospitalized, are more susceptible to significant organ damage, as disclosed in a recent study

MRI scans displayed that these patients were threefold more likely to present abnormalities in several key organs including the lungs, brain, and kidneys. The researchers are convinced that there’s a correlation with the illness’s severity. The UK-led research is expected to contribute to the creation of more potent treatments for long Covid.

The research, made public in Lancet Respiratory Medicine, analyzed 259 patients so severely affected by the virus that hospitalization was necessary. Five months post-discharge, MRI scans of their key organs exhibited notable variations when compared with a group of 52 individuals who had never contracted Covid. The lungs were the most affected organ, with the scans reflecting abnormalities 14 times more frequently. MRI scans also showed a threefold increased likelihood of brain abnormalities and a twofold probability for kidneys among those who had suffered acute Covid. However, heart and liver health showed no significant differences.

Dr. Betty Raman, from the University of Oxford and a lead investigator of the research, asserts that it’s evident that individuals dealing with prolonged Covid symptoms are more likely to have sustained organ damage. “Five months after being released from hospital for Covid, we discovered more abnormalities in the lungs, brain, and kidneys in these patients than in the group who had never contracted Covid,” she stated. “The patient’s age, the severity of their Covid infection, and whether they had any concurrent illnesses, were all significant factors in determining the likelihood of finding damage to these vital organs.”

Potential New Treatments

These discoveries are part of a larger investigation into the enduring impacts of Covid on patients who were hospitalized, referred to as the Phosp-Covid study. The researchers found that some symptoms correlated with signs of organ damage unveiled by the MRI scans, such as a tight chest and cough linked to lung abnormalities. However, not all symptoms experienced by those suffering from long Covid could be directly attributed to the scan findings.

Dr. Raman also notes that the presence of abnormalities in more than one organ was more prevalent among individuals who had been hospitalized and continued to report physical and mental health issues following recovery from the initial infection. “We are observing that patients with multi-organ pathology on MRI — that is, more than two organs affected — were four times more likely to report severe and very severe mental and physical impairment,” she stated. “Our results also underscore the necessity for long-term, multidisciplinary follow-up services concentrating on pulmonary and extrapulmonary health (kidneys, brain, and mental health), particularly for those hospitalized for Covid.”

Prof. Chris Brightling, from the University of Leicester and the lead of the Phosp-Covid study, states that this research is part of a broader initiative to comprehend the diverse symptoms constituting the syndrome known as long Covid. “This comprehensive study of whole-body imaging confirms that changes in multiple organs can be seen months after hospitalization for Covid,” he said. “The Phosp-Covid study is focusing on understanding why this occurs and how we can devise tests and novel treatments for long Covid.”

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