BOSTON – One of the first spectroscopic imaging-based studies of neurological injury in COVID-19 patients has been reported by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in the American Journal of Neuroradiology. Looking at six patients using a specialized magnetic resonance (MR) technique, they found that COVID-19 patients with neurological symptoms show some of the same metabolic disturbances in the brain as other patients who have suffered oxygen deprivation (hypoxia) from other causes, but there are also notable differences.
While it is primarily a respiratory disease, COVID-19 infection affects other organs, including the brain. It is thought that the disease’s primary effect on the brain is through hypoxia, but few studies have documented the specific types of damage that distinguish COVID-19-related brain injury. Several thousand patients with COVID-19 have been seen at the MGH since the outbreak began early this year, and this study included findings from three of those patients.
The severity of neurological symptoms varies, ranging from one of the most well-known — a temporary loss of smell — to more severe symptoms such as dizziness, confusion, seizures and stroke. “We were interested in characterizing the biological underpinnings of some of these symptoms,” says Eva-Maria Ratai, PhD, an investigator in the Department of Radiology and senior author of the study. “Moving forward, we are also interested in understanding long-term lingering effects of COVID-19, including headaches, fatigue and cognitive impairment. So-called ‘brain fog’ and other impairments that have been found to persist long after the acute phase,” adds Ratai, also an associate professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School….