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COVID-19 : “The coronavirus can cause the body to attack itself in different ways”

The Persistent COVID-19, involving sequelae and other medical complications that last weeks or months after initial recovery, it remains a mystery to the scientific community. And it is that, among other things, the mechanisms of this new disease considered as a multifactorial symptom complex are unknown and why it affects some of those infected and others not.

To date, more than 50 persistent effects have been detected, the most common are fatigue, headache, attention disorder, hair loss, dyspnea, or anosmia. But not to forget other serious, long-lasting and even strange collected in a recent investigation by experts from Northwestern University (USA) as outbreaks of rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune myositis or ‘COVID fingers’.

The results of the work, published in the ‘Skeletal Radiology’, confirm and illustrate for the first time by means of radiological images the causes of these symptoms. “We have realized that SARS-CoV-2 can cause the body to attack itself in different ways, which can lead to rheumatologic problems that require lifelong treatment, “says Dr. Swati Deshmukh, lead author of the retrospective study of data from patients who attended Northwestern Memorial Hospital in the second half of 2020.

Thus, through different types of images (computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound) Researchers were able to verify that muscle pain and sore joints are common symptoms among COVID-19 patients. Likewise, they can help explain why someone may have prolonged musculoskeletal symptoms after COVID-19.

Many patients with infection-related musculoskeletal disorders recover, but in some cases they become more severe and their quality of life impaired. The images allow us to see if the muscle and joint pain related to COVID-19 is something more insidious, “adds Deshmukh.

Better diagnostics and treatments

Furthermore, the Northwestern University team’s findings They allow you to find the most appropriate therapeutic line and the professionals, such as a rheumatologist or a dermatologist, who are best suited to lead. In fact, radiologists may also suggest a musculoskeletal imaging-based diagnosis in patients who previously did not know they had contracted the virus,

“We could see edema and inflammatory changes of the tissues (fluid, swelling), bruises (accumulations of blood) or devitalized tissue (gangrene). In some patients, the nerves are injured (shiny, enlarged) and in others, the problem is a poor blood flow (clots). I think it is important to differentiate between what causes the virus directly and what causes the body to do. It is important for doctors to know what is happening so that they can treat correctly. How do you find something if you don’t know exactly what to look for? “explains Dr. Swati Deshmukh.

“That is why, in our work, we discuss the various types of musculoskeletal abnormalities radiologists should look for and provide examples through images “, he concludes.