Xenon MRI Detects Long-Term Lung Damage In COVID Patients Ev
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Hyperpolarised xenon MRI showed persistent damage to the lungs of COVID-19 pneumonia patients despite normal or nearly normal CT scans, according to a recent study. This damage was not detected by routine CT scans and clinical tests, and the patients would consequently normally be told their lungs are normal.

The researchers said that hyperpolarised xenon MRI (XeMRI) scans had found abnormalities in the lungs of some COVID-19 patients more than three months – and in some cases, nine months - after leaving the hospital, when other clinical measurements were normal.

The lead author of the study, said: "The findings of the study are very interesting. 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 study's Principal Investigator, said: "Many COVID-19 patients are still experiencing breathlessness several months after being discharged from hospital, despite their CT scans indicating that their lungs are functioning normally. "Our follow-up scans using hyperpolarised xenon MRI have found that abnormalities not normally visible on regular scans are indeed present, and these abnormalities are preventing oxygen getting into the bloodstream as it should in all parts of the lungs."

The study has now begun testing patients who were not hospitalized with COVID-19 but who have been attending long COVID clinics. "Although we are currently only talking about early findings, the XeMRI scans of non-hospitalized patients who are breathless may have similar abnormalities in their lungs. We need a larger study to identify how common this is and how long it will take to get better." the researcher explained.

"We have some way to go before fully comprehending the nature of the lung impairment that follows a COVID-19 infection. But these findings, are an important step on the path to understanding the biological basis of long COVID and that in turn will help us to develop more effective therapies."

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