COVID-19 could cause lung abnormalities still traceable in patients three months after infection, new research suggests.
Oxford University in the UK studied 10 patients using a scanning technique to detect changes left hidden during standard health scans.
The new method involves MRI scans that use xenon gas to generate a clear picture of lung damage.
Lung experts said the new testing technique, if successful in detecting lung damage, “would make a huge difference to COVID-19 patients.”
The xenon method involves patients inhaling the gas during an MRI scan. Prof. Fergus Gleeson, who leads the study, used the new method on 10 patients aged 19-69.
The results showed that eight patients suffered from shortness of breath and tiredness three months after COVID-19 infection, despite none of them receiving intensive care or ventilation, and conventional health scans finding no lung damage.
But the new scans revealed signs of lung damage in eight patients by exposing areas where air did not flow easily into the blood.
Gleeson is now looking to expand the study by trialing up to 100 people who were not admitted to hospital and did not suffer serious symptoms. The goal is to discover whether lung damage occurs, and if so, its extent and duration.