New study confirms longer-term lung damage after COVID-19

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In a new study from Sheffield and Oxford, researchers found persistent damage to the lungs of COVID-19 patients at least three months after they were discharged from the hospital, and for some patients even longer.

This damage was not detected by routine CT scans and clinical tests, and the patients would consequently normally be told their lungs are normal.

Early research by the team has shown that patients who have not been hospitalized with COVID-19 but who are experiencing long-term breathlessness may have similar damage in their lungs.

In the study, the team used hyperpolarised xenon MRI (XeMRI) scans to find abnormalities in the lungs of some COVID-19 patients more than three months—and in some cases, nine months—after leaving the hospital.

The 129Xe MRI is pinpointing the parts of the lung where the physiology of oxygen uptake is impaired due to long-standing effects of COVID-19 on the lungs, even though they often look normal on CT scans.

The team says many COVID-19 patients are still experiencing breathlessness several months after being discharged from the hospital, despite their CT scans indicating that their lungs are functioning normally.

The current follow-up scans using hyperpolarized xenon MRI have found that abnormalities not normally visible on regular scans are indeed present, and these abnormalities are preventing oxygen from getting into the bloodstream as it should in all parts of the lungs.

Although they are currently only talking about early findings, the XeMRI scans of non-hospitalized patients who are breathless—and 70% of the local patients with Long COVID do experience breathlessness—may have similar abnormalities in their lungs.

The team has now begun testing patients who were not hospitalized with COVID-19 but who have been attending long COVID clinics.

If you care about COVID-19 and your health, please read studies about the cause of COVID-19 lung damage and findings of this old drug could prevent lung damage in people with COVID-19.

For more information about COVID-19, please see recent studies about lung failure in COVID-19 not caused by cytokine storm and results showing that two-thirds of COVID-19 hospitalizations are due to these 4 health problems.

The study is published in Radiology. One author of the study is Professor Jim Wild.

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