Early details of brain damage in COVID-19 patients

Specialized scanning furthers understanding of the virus’ potential effects on the brain

– The Harvard Gazette (
Brain scan.
Source : The Harvard Gazette

The infection with COVID-19 may spread to other organs, including the brain.

Spectroscopic imaging-based studies of neurological injury in COVID-19 patients have been published by researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), which is affiliated with Harvard University. The study was published in the American Journal of Neuroradiology and was one of the first of its kind. Using a specialized magnetic resonance (MR) technique, they discovered that COVID-19 patients with neurological symptoms exhibit some of the same metabolic disturbances in the brain as patients who have suffered oxygen deprivation (hypoxia) from other causes, but that there are also significant differences between them. Although it is believed that hypoxia is the main mechanism by which the illness affects the brain, only a few studies have identified the precise kinds of damage that differentiate COVID-19-related brain injury from other types of brain injury. Over a thousand COVID-19 patients have been examined at the Massachusetts General Hospital since the epidemic started earlier this year, and the results from three of those individuals were included in this research.

They utilized 3 Tesla Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS), which is a specific kind of scanning that is also known as a virtual biopsy because of the way it works. The use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may detect neurochemical abnormalities even when structural imaging results are normal. In the brains of COVID-19 patients, N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA) reduction, choline elevation, and myo-inositol elevation were observed, which is consistent with what has been observed with these metabolites in other patients with white matter abnormalities (leukoencephalopathy) following hypoxia without the use of COVID. A significant lactate increase was seen on MRS in one of the patients with COVID-19 who had the most severe white matter damage (necrosis and cavitation), which is another indication of brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation. Symptoms ranging from one of the most well-known — a momentary loss of sense of smell — to more serious symptoms such as dizziness, disorientation, seizures and stroke are all possible with neurological disorders. Three COVID-19 patients were admitted to the critical care unit, where two of them were intubated at the time of imaging, which was performed as part of their treatment. Necrotizing leukoencephalopathy linked with COVID-19 was diagnosed in one of the patients. Another had just had a cardiac arrest and had modest white matter alterations on structural MR, which was discovered. The third patient did not seem to have any signs of encephalopathy or recent cardiac arrest. Patients with white matter damage owing to hypoxia from other sources (post-hypoxic leukoencephalopathy), one with sepsis-related white matter damage, and a healthy volunteer in the same age range as the COVID patients served as non-COVID controls.

The use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may better describe pathological processes such as neuronal damage, inflammation, demyelination, and hypoxia in comparison to traditional structural MRI, according to Weerasekera. We think it has the potential to be utilized as a disease and treatment monitoring tool as a result of our results.

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Categories: Clinical