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Lung CT Scans May Predict COVID-19 Neurologic Issues

CT imaging can detect illness in the lungs better than other medical imaging like MRI.

A recent study conducted by investigators from the University of Cincinnati (UC) has found a visual correlation between COVID-19 disease severity and the future impact it may have on the patient’s brain. Results from the study were published in the American Journal of Neuroradiology and will be presented at the 59th annual meeting of the American Society of Neuroradiology (ASNR). 

"We've seen patients with COVID-19 experience stroke, brain bleeds and other disorders affecting the brain," Abdelkader Mahammedi, a lead co-author on the study said. "So, we're finding, through patient experiences, that neurological symptoms are correlating to those with more severe respiratory disease; however, little information has been available on identifying potential associations between imaging abnormalities in the brain and lungs in COVID-19 patients.

Investigators behind the study analyzed computed tomography scans (CT) of 135 participants with abnormal lung scans and neurological symptoms. The medical records used were obtained from UC, as well as from other large institutions in Italy, Spain and Brazil between March and June of 2020.

"Imaging serves as proof for physicians, confirming how an illness is forming and with what severity and helps in making final decisions about a patient's care,” Mahammedi said.

Findings from the study showed that of the 135 participants, 36% were also found to eventually develop abnormal brain scans. Additionally, these patients were also more likely to experience symptoms of stroke.

The investigators believe that the findings from the study will aid physicians in classifying patients based on the severity of disease found in their CT scans into groups that are more likely to develop brain abnormalities. The correlation could be an important tool for implementing therapies to improve outcomes of COVID-19 patients.

"These results are important because they further show that severe lung disease from COVID-19 could mean serious brain complications, and we have the imaging to help prove it," Mahammedi said. "Future larger studies are needed to help us understand the tie better, but for now, we hope these results can be used to help predict care and ensure that patients have the best outcomes."