Researchers have discovered that COVID-19 could be causing lung abnormalities still detectable more than three months after patients are infected.
A study of 10 patients aged 10 and 69 at Oxford University used a novel scanning technique to identify Lung damage not picked up by conventional scans.
It uses a gas called Xenon during MRI scans to create images of lung damage. Lung experts said a test that could spot long-term damage would make a huge difference to COVID_19 patients.
Eight of the 10 patients had persistent shortness of breath and tiredness three months after being ill with COVID_19, even though none of them had been admitted to intensive care or required ventilation, and conventional scans had found no problems in their lungs.
The scans showed signs of lung damage -by highlighting areas where the air is not flowing easily into the blood in the eight who reported breathlessness.
The aim of the suggestion and the Xenon scanning is to discover whether lung damage occurs and if so whether it is permanent or resolves over time so that immediate action can be taken.
If confirmed, it could enable the development of a test that can measure lung damage caused by COVID-19 which would make a huge difference to many people with ‘long COVID respiratory issues and also allow specific treatments to be developed
The researchers on this project also said that they were expecting some form of lung damage, but not to the degree that they had seen after using the Xenon scan on the 10 patients.
The Xenon technique sees patients inhale the gas during a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.
The scanning technique was developed by a research group at the University of Sheffield led by Prof James Wild who said it offered a “unique” way of showing lung damage caused by Covid-19 infection and its after-effects.
A doctor based in Oxford believes that up to 10 percent of those who have had COVID-19 might have some form of lung damage which is leading to prolonged symptoms.
Dr. Samantha Walker, director of research and innovation at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said: “This is an interesting investigation and it’s important that post-COVID lung damage is looked into further and on a larger scale so we can better understand the long term damage caused.