COVERSCAN - Mapping organ health post Covid-19

COVERSCAN is a research study based in Oxford and London. It is in association with a company called PERSPECTUM who use "cutting-edge digital technologies that help clinicians provide better care for patients with liver disease, diabetes, and cancer".

The study is titled-

"Mapping organ health following Covid-19 disease due to the SARS-CoV-2 infection"

Dr Rajarshi Banerjee (aka Dr Banjo) is the Chief Investigator. In March 2020 they recruited 500 individuals - those recovering from Covid-19 and healthy controls. Over the next few months they were to have 2200 enquiries (I was one!) from those with ongoing symptoms after the initial Covid-19 infection. People were getting limited, or no help, from the NHS and were desperately seeking answers so demand was high. Patients were mainly recruited from Long Covid Facebook support groups or word of mouth.

The trial size ended up being 507 individuals with recruitment over 24 months.

The aim was to see-

"The degree and prevalence of lung, heart, kidney, liver, pancreas and spleen injury in a cohort of patients recovering from Covid-19 disease using MRI"

At the outset they were NOT expecting to find organ impairment. As most individuals with Long Covid had more than 8 symptoms they found a whole body approach would be economical. They used MRI to scan all these organs at the same time.

What they found-

They were surprised to find that even following a mild/moderate initial infection:

31% had multi-organ impairment - more than one organ affected
70% had organ impairment 4 months after the initial infection

Breaking these down into individual organs:

43 % pancreas was impaired

28 % liver was impaired

26 % heart was impaired

11 % lung was impaired

4 % kidney was impaired

4 % spleen was impaired

Interestingly the pancreas is not a hot topic in research relating to Covid-19. I have heard anedoctally of patients with acute severe infections presenting with acute pancreatitis ( inflammation of the pancreas) but it is certainly not an organ making the headlines.

The pancreas' role is to produce enzymes to help us digest our food, especially proteins. If our pancreas is inflamed there will be less enzymes released and so we can only partially digest our food and this can lead to nutrient, vitamin and mineral deficiencies known as malasorption and a change in bowel habit - normally to diarrhoea.

The pancreas also produces the hormone Insulin which is involved in our body's metabolism. If the pancreas is inflamed less Insulin will be produced and this can lead to Diabetes.

*If you think this may be the case for you please see your doctor for a blood test/stool sample*

Despite SARS-CoV-2 being classed as a respiratory virus COVERSCAN found that the heart was more affected than the lungs.

They found that those recovering from Covid-19 had either MYOCARDITIS - inflammation of the heart muscle or the heart was unable to work as well - its ability to contract was reduced.

Even with this information COVERSCAN cannot say that Covid-19 definitely caused these organ impairments as individuals were not scanned before their infection but with healthy controls it is highly likely.

Those with organ impairment are invited back at 6 months to be rescanned.

So what is next for the COVERSCAN study?

They are working very closely with UCLH hospital in London where the first Long Covid clinic was set up. This clinic is an example to other newly set up LC clinics as it understands Long Covid to be have multi -organ involvement and that this is not related to and severity during the acute initial infection.

The UK’s Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have just approved the use of CoverScan MD, an MRI-based technology that maps the effects of COVID-19 on several of the body’s key organs, developed by Perspectum. With 1 in 20 COVID-19 patients predicted to experience ongoing symptoms, or “Long COVID”, CoverScan MD quickly and safely provides medical professionals with the information critically needed to assess and evaluate patients - source BusinessWire.

I truly hope this means that COVERSCAN will be introduced into our 66 Long Covid clinics throughout the country. At the moment most are focused on anxiety and physiotherapy for breathlessness.

From patient feedback they have understood that many are affected with cognitive dysfunction or "brain fog" and it is hoped that they will soon be scanning Long Covid sufferers brains to further understand why this may be so.


Register your interest:

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