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Doctors Find Lung And Brain Scans Of COVID Patients May Detect Looming Stroke


University of Cincinnati researchers say for the first time they have a visual correlation between the severity of COVID-19 in the lungs and the effect on patients' brains. This early indicator could be key in preventing such neurological problems like stroke.

Scientists reviewed CT scans of COVID patients' lungs and MRIs of their brains in Spain, Italy, Brazil and the U.S. They found correlation between the the two organs and have developed a timeline when patients could be in danger of further damage. 

Lead author Abdelkader Mahammedi, MD, assistant professor of radiology at the University of Cincinnati and a UC Health neuroradiologist says, "We came out with a scoring system in the lungs where the idea is to score the severity of the lung disease. And based on the severity of the CT scan, we can help physicians predict the prevalence of the abnormality in the brain."

How much time is there before patients possibly suffer a stroke or some other neurological problem?

Mahammedi says there is some variation. "Typically six to eleven days when you have the likelihood of having some complication in the brain," he says.

The hope is that doctors will be able to predict just how badly the patients will experience neurological problems and will be able to identify symptoms for earlier treatment.

Mahammedi and his colleague Achala Vagal, vice chair of research in the UC Radiation Department, say there is still a lot to learn when it comes to how the lungs and brain are connected with COVID. "One of the things we do know is that COVID causes this kind of cytokine syndrome," Vagal says. "And the thought is that maybe there are these inflammatory mediators that can actually affect the lung and the brain together."

Their research is published in the American Journal of Neuroradiology.

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With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.