There are still cases of people suffering from long COVID that can last for months or years, impairing their organs.
This, as a new British research finds that as many as 6 in 10 long COVID patients continue to battle some form of mild organ impairment – sometimes involving more than one organ – a year after their initial COVID-19 diagnosis, giving rise to some combination of breathing difficulty, mental impairment and a lower quality of life.
“We know that the people who have been hospitalized with COVID at the beginning are more at risk of developing new chronic diseases, such as diabetes, and higher rates of heart disease,” said study author Amitava Banerjee, a professor of clinical data science at the Institute of Health Informatics at University College London.
“But what’s important about our study is that it mainly involves patients who were never hospitalized with COVID. Their initial illness was never severe enough,” he said.
Even though just 13 percent of the 536 patients enrolled in the study had been hospitalized due to their initial COVID-19 infection, they all had long COVID symptoms, Banerjee noted.
At an average six months after their initial COVID-19 diagnosis, 38 percent of the study patients had extreme breathlessness; 48 percent had trouble thinking clearly, and 57 percent reported poor health-related quality of life.
For the study, participants each had a multi-organ MRI body scan roughly at the six-month mark after their initial COVID-19 diagnosis.
About three-quarters of the patients were women, and 9 in 10 were white. About a third were British healthcare workers. Most were infected during the pandemic’s first wave in 2020, before COVID-19 vaccines were available.
The scans revealed that 62 percent had some form of mild organ impairment, variously involving the heart, liver, kidney and/or spleen.
Those patients had a second MRI scan at one year. By that point, their symptoms had resolved somewhat, though 30 percent still had breathing problems; 38 percent continued to have thinking and memory issues, and 45 percent reported a diminished quality of life.
About 59 percent still had single organ impairment, and 27 percent had multi-organ impairment after a year.
“In most cases, if not the vast majority, what we found was mild organ impairment,” Banerjee said, adding that data from several countries make it clear that some people do get better.
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