Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

A study by Oxford and Sheffield researchers using a cutting-edge method of imaging has identified persistent damage to the lungs of COVID-19 patients at least three months after they were discharged from hospital, and for some patients even longer.

CT scan of lungs © Department on Oncology, University of Oxford

This damage was not detected by routine CT scans and clinical tests, and the patients would consequently normally be told their lungs are normal.

Further early research by the team has shown that patients who have not been hospitalised with COVID-19 but who are experiencing long-term breathlessness may have similar damage in their lungs, and a larger study is needed to confirm this.

In a paper published in Radiology, the world’s leading radiology journal, the researchers from Oxford and Sheffield said that hyperpolarised xenon MRI (XeMRI) scans had found abnormalities in the lungs of some COVID-19 patients more than three months – and in some cases, nine months - after leaving hospital, when other clinical measurements were normal.

The study’s Principal Investigator Professor Fergus Gleeson, Professor of Radiology in the Department of Oncology, (University of Oxford) and Consultant Radiologist at Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Many COVID-19 patients are still experiencing breathlessness several months after being discharged from hospital, despite their CT scans indicating that their lungs are functioning normally. 

“Our follow-up scans using hyperpolarised xenon MRI have found that abnormalities not normally visible on regular scans are indeed present, and these abnormalities are preventing oxygen getting into the bloodstream as it should in all parts of the lungs.”

Read the full story on the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre website

Similar stories

Oxford spinout trials revolutionary bioelectronic implant to treat incontinence

The first participants in a clinical trial of a bioelectrical therapy to treat incontinence have received their “smart” bioelectronic implants.

COVID-19 is a leading cause of death in children and young people in the US

A new study led by researchers at the University of Oxford’s Department of Computer Science has found that, between 2021 and 2022, COVID-19 was a leading cause of death in children and young people in the United States, ranking eighth overall. The results demonstrate that pharmaceutical and public health interventions should continue to be applied to limit the spread of the coronavirus and protect again severe disease in this age group.

Three or more concussions linked with worse brain function in later life

Experiencing three or more concussions is linked with worsened brain function in later life, according to new research.

New blood test could save lives of heart attack victims

Researchers in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics (DPAG) have developed a blood test that measures stress hormone levels after heart attacks. The test – costing just £10 – could ensure patients receive timely life-saving treatment.

COVID-19 increased public trust in science, new survey shows

A survey of over 2000 British adults has found that public trust in science, particularly genetics, increased significantly during the pandemic. However, those with extremely negative attitudes towards science tend to have high self-belief in their own understanding despite low textbook knowledge.

Gero Miesenböck awarded 2023 Japan Prize

Congratulations to Professor Gero Miesenböck, Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics (DPAG), who has been awarded the 2023 Japan Prize in the field of Life Sciences, together with Professor Karl Deisseroth, for pioneering work in the field of optogenetics.