59% of long COVID patients had organ damage a year later

59% of long Covid patients had organ damage a year later
© shutterstock/Starocean

A new study has shown that organ damage persisted in 59% of long COVID patients a year after symptoms, even in those with mild Covid.

Long Covid causes persisted COVID-19 symptoms for an extended period. The most common symptoms of long Covid are extreme tiredness, shortness of breath, loss of smell and muscle aches. On the NHS, patients suffering from long COVID can access an online recovery programme to help with symptoms.

The new study led by a University College London (UCL) researcher analysed the potential link between organ damage and long COVID in 536 patients.

The study is published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Is organ damage a side effect of long COVID?

The researchers focused on patients reporting extreme breathlessness, cognitive dysfunction, and poor health-related quality of life. In total, 536 individuals were included in the study, and 13% were hospitalised following initial COVID-19 infection, with a further 32% of participants being healthcare workers.

Within the 536 patients, 331 (62%) were identified to have organ damage six months following diagnosis. These patients were offered a 40-minute multi-organ MRI scan called Perpectrum’s CoverScan six months later.

Some patients faced multi-organ impairment

The findings confirmed that 29% of patients with long COVID had a multi-organ impairment, with persistent symptoms and reduced function at six and 12 months. Furthermore, 59% of long Covid patients had single organ damage 12 months after initial diagnosis.

Senior author Professor Amitava Banerjee (UCL Institute of Health Informatics) said: “Symptoms were common at six and 12 months and associated with female gender, younger age and single organ impairment.”

He said: “Impact on quality of life and time off work, particularly in healthcare workers, is a major concern for individuals, health systems and economies. Many healthcare workers in our study had no prior illness, but in 172 participants, 19 were still symptomatic at follow-up and off work at a median of 180 days.”

The researchers commented that the underlying mechanisms of long COVID remain vague as they were unable to find evidence by symptoms, blood investigations or MRI to clearly define long Covid subtypes. They outlined that future research must consider associations between symptoms, multi-organ impairment and function in larger cohorts.

Professor Banerjee concluded: “Organ impairment in long Covid has implications for symptoms, quality of life and longer-term health, signalling the need for prevention and integrated care for long Covid patients.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here