Long Covid: Scan Results Reveal Hidden Lung Damage

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Modest pilot analysis in the United Kingdom reveals that certain persons with long Covid may have concealed lung harm.

The researchers employed a unique xenon gas scan approach to detect lung abnormalities missed by standard examinations.

They focused on 11 persons who did not need hospitalization when they initially were infected with Covid but developed long-term dyspnea after that.

A more significant, more extensive investigation is being conducted to corroborate the findings.

The research expands on a previous study that looked at persons admitted to the hospital with Covid.

According to the researchers, the results give some insight into why breathlessness is so frequent in lengthy Covid – albeit the causes for feeling short of breath are typically many and varied.

Long Covid is a collection of symptoms that persist for many weeks after a coronavirus infection and cannot be caused by another source.

The Journey of Oxygen

The Oxford, Sheffield, Cardiff, and Manchester-based researchers examined xenon gas scans and other lung-function testing in three groups of participants.

This comprised patients with long Covid and dyspnea who had not been hospitalized when infected, 12 people with Covid but no long Covid who had been admitted to hospital, and 13 healthy people as “controls.”

During a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, all participants breathed xenon gas, thanks to an innovative method devised by the University of Sheffield.

The gas acts similarly to oxygen but can be seen during scans, allowing scientists to “see” how successfully it went from the lungs into the bloodstream – a critical stage in carrying oxygen throughout the body.

According to the researchers, most persons with long Covid had less efficient gas transport than healthy controls.

Similar anomalies were seen in those hospitalized for Covid.

Dr. Emily Fraser, the study’s lead researcher and a lung expert, said it was upsetting to have individuals come into the clinic and not explain why they were out of breath.

X-rays and CT scans often reveal no abnormalities.

She added that this is important research, and she hopes this will shed more light on that.

However, she added that it is important people know that rehabilitation strategies and breathing retraining can be beneficial. When doctors see people in the clinic who are breathless, they know they can progress.

Prof Fergus Gleeson, the study’s co-chief investigator,

“There are now important questions to answer, such as how many patients with long Covid will have abnormal scans, the significance of the abnormality we’ve detected, the cause of the abnormality, and its longer-term consequences. Once we understand the mechanisms driving these symptoms, we will be better placed to develop more effective treatments.”

The manuscript is a pre-print and has not been subjected to the standard peer-review process.

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