Organ damage persisted in 59 per cent of long Covid patients a year after initial symptoms appeared, even in those not severely affected when first diagnosed with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to a study.
The research, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, focused on 536 long Covid patients who reported extreme breathlessness, cognitive dysfunction and poor health-related quality of life.
Thirteen per cent were hospitalised when first diagnosed with Covid-19, while 32 per cent of people taking part in the study were healthcare workers. Of the 536 patients, 331 (62 per cent) were identified with organ impairment six months after their initial diagnosis, the researchers said.
These patients were followed up six months later with a 40-minute multi-organ MRI scan (Perspectum's CoverScan), analysed in Oxford, they said.
The findings confirmed that 29 per cent of patients with long Covid had multi-organ impairment, with persistent symptoms and reduced function at six and 12 months. 59 per cent of long Covid patients had single organ impairment 12 months after initial diagnosis.
"Symptoms were common at six and 12 months and associated with female gender, younger age and single organ impairment," said senior study author Professor Amitava Banerjee from University College London, UK.
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The study reported a reduction in symptoms between six and 12 months.
"Several studies confirm persistence of symptoms in individuals with long Covid up to one year. We now add that three in five people with long Covid have impairment in at least one organ, and one in four have impairment in two or more organs, in some cases without symptoms, Banerjee said.
"Impact on quality of life and time off work, particularly in healthcare workers, is a major concern for individuals, health systems and economies," he said.
Many healthcare workers in the study had no prior illness, but of 172 such participants, 19 were still symptomatic at follow-up and off work at a median of 180 days.
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