Scientists have discovered a new 10-minute treatment that can help to restore sense of smell for people with long Covid.
Also known as parosmia, the loss of smell is a common symptom amongst Covid patients. And while it does tend to return after people are no longer infected, it can sometimes persist for months or even years.
This can affect a person's appetite for food and generally have a negative impact on quality of life - but now there may be a solution
The study, which was published in the journal Radiological Society of North America, says that the "minimally invasive" procedure takes less than 10 minutes, and no sedation is necessary.
It involves injecting anaesthetic into the stellate ganglion on one side of the neck to stimulate the autonomic nervous system, which is accurately achieved with CT guidance.
Lead author professor Adam Zoga said: "Post-COVID parosmia is common and increasingly recognised.
"Patients can develop a distaste for foods and drinks they used to enjoy.
"Parosmia has previously been reported as a rare disorder occurring after brain trauma, brain surgery, stroke, viral syndromes, and with some head and neck tumours.
"We were not entirely confident that the procedure would work for parosmia."
This method has been used to treat several other conditions including cluster headaches, phantom limb pain, Raynaud's and Meniere's syndromes, angina and cardiac arrhythmia.
The researchers added a small dose of corticosteroid to the anaesthetic suspecting that the COVID virus may be causing nerve inflammation.
For the study, 54 patients were referred from an ear, nose and throat specialist after at least six months of post-COVID parosmia that was resistant to pharmaceutical and topical therapies.
Professor Zoga added: "The initial patient had a tremendously positive outcome, almost immediately, with continued improvement to the point of symptom resolution at four weeks.
"We have been surprised at some outcomes, including near 100 per cent resolution of phantosmia, a condition that causes people to detect smells that aren't there, in some patients, throughout the trial.
"Other treatments have failed to date, this injection is working."
Follow-up was obtained for 37 patients, with 22 of the 37 reporting improved symptoms at one week post-injection. Of these 22, 18 reported significant progressive improvement by one month post-procedure.
No complications or adverse events were reported.
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