Lung damage from COVID-19 can be serious and last a long time.

We know that some people with severe COVID-19 complications end up on ventilators. Early in the pandemic, most of them never survived. Much has been learned about how to treat patients with severe complications from COVID-19.

Lung damage concerns have been the amount of damage to the lung and the length of time to fully recover. A new tool being developed in the United Kingdom appears to solve one of those problems. The results were published this past week.

Total Lung Damage The respiratory and fatigue symptoms of COVID-19 seem to last for months with some people. No one knows exactly why one patient recovers more quickly than another.

Oxford University is using hyperpolarized xenon gas during an MRI to identify lung function and damage from recovering COVID-19 patients. Standard magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) do not show the level of detail needed to clearly assess lung damage from COVID-19.

CT uses radiation and MRI does not. A CT scan might take about five minutes and an MRI takes around a half-hour. CT scans look at harder structures whereas an MRI looks at the softer tissues.

Ten COVID-19 patients were tested using xenon gas inside the lungs during an MRI. Xenon gas is odorless, colorless, tasteless, and chemically unreactive. The xenon gas provided deep insights into the functional areas of the lungs that had not been seen before.

The link above has a couple of photos of lungs with xenon gas that are remarkable. A picture is worth a thousand words and these two pictures are worth more than a mere thousand words.

The Study  The ten patients were between the ages of 19 and 69. Eight of them had unrelenting respiratory issues from COVID-19. None had been admitted to the ICU or had treatments on ventilators. Conventional scans could not identify a problem or damage with their lungs.

The problem was that there was no exact method available to determine where the air was flowing inside the lungs. The xenon gas allowed scientists to follow the paths of air inside the lung as the patient was breathing.

The photos in the first link clearly demonstrate the areas of the lung not getting enough oxygen. The lung damage due to COVID-19 was greater than imagined. As such, lung issues and fatigue (less oxygen) were persistent.

The Future It is difficult to develop a solution until you diagnose and understand the problem completely. Additional studies are needed. The National Consortium of Intelligent Medical Imaging (NCIMI) and Oxford University are being funded by the National Institute for Health Research, Oxford Biomedical Research Center is beginning a follow-up study, PHOSP-COVID.

40 patients in Sheffield and Oxford have been identified as part of this study using the hyperpolarized xenon MRI technique. The study plans to evaluate 100 people initially. Plans will be developed accordingly.


People feel better when they know what is wrong, even if it cannot be fixed right away. An unknown health issue will gnaw at the mental health of many. Have you ever had a doctor tell you that he or she could not tell you what the problem was?

Older people are at higher risk of respiratory and other maladies. This novel technique will drive further research into what works and what does not work. When a treatment is given that should work and does not, anxiety increases in both the medical staff and the patients.

With the xenon gas technique available, treatment can be given, and results tracked more accurately. I would imagine that other lung diseases can benefit from this diagnostic tool.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin –


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