Organ damage lasts a year after first symptoms appear in 59% of long-term Covid patients – study

It is common knowledge how COVID-19 affects us immediately after the initial infection. Most people are wary of the symptoms that may occur. However, three years after the start of the pandemic, we are still learning about the long-term effects of the disease.

A new study of more than 530 long-term Covid patients found that organ damage persisted in 59 percent of them for a whole year after the onset of symptoms.

This was true even for those who were not seriously affected when the virus was first diagnosed.

An article published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine focused on patients complaining of severe dyspnea, cognitive dysfunction and poor health-related quality of life.

Of the 536 participants, 13 percent were hospitalized when first diagnosed with COVID-19, and 32 percent were healthcare workers.

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A study by researchers in the UK noted that 331 patients (62 per cent) developed organ damage six months after their initial diagnosis.

These patients were followed up six months later with a 40-minute multi-organ MRI scan analyzed at Oxford.

This confirmed that 29 percent of long-term Covid patients had multiple organ dysfunction with persistent symptoms and decreased function at six and 12 months, and 59 percent had single organ involvement at 12 months after initial diagnosis.

One of the researchers, Professor Amitawa Banerjee of the UCLA Institute for Health Informatics, said: “Symptoms were common at six and 12 months of age and were associated with female sex, younger age, and single organ involvement.”

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The most commonly affected organ was the liver, with 29% of patients experiencing liver failure.

The heart, kidneys, pancreas and spleen were also affected.

Surprisingly, the lungs were the least affected, at only two percent.

The study also reported that some patients experienced a reduction in symptoms between six and 12 months after infection.

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During this time, extreme dyspnea decreased from 38 to 30 percent of patients, and cognitive dysfunction from 48 to 38 percent of patients.

Professor Banerjee added: “Several studies support the persistence of symptoms in people with long-term Covid up to one year.

“Now we add that three out of five people with long-term Covid have at least one organ involvement, and one in four have two or more organ damage, in some cases without symptoms.

“The impact on quality of life and time off from work, especially healthcare workers, is a major concern for people, health systems and economies.

“Many healthcare workers in our study were not previously ill, but of 172 such participants, 19 still had symptoms at follow-up and out of work for an average of 180 days.”

The mechanisms underlying long-term Covid are still not fully understood, say the researchers, who found no evidence from symptoms, blood tests or MRI to clearly define long Covid subtypes.

They say future studies should consider the relationship between symptoms, multi-organ dysfunction, and function in larger cohorts.

Prof. Banerjee concluded: “The organ dysfunction of long-term Covid affects symptoms, quality of life and long-term health, highlighting the need for prevention and comprehensive management of long-term Covid patients.”

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