Almost one in five patients with Covid-19 may only show gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea, according to a review of studies. The findings suggest that abdominal radiologists need to remain vigilant during the pandemic while imaging patients, the researchers said.
Gastrointestinal symptoms associated with Covid-19 vary widely but can include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and generalized abdominal pain, they said.
The study, published in the journal Abdominal Radiology, found that 18 percent of patients presented with such symptoms, while 16 percent of Covid-19 cases may only present with gastrointestinal symptoms.
“There’s a growing amount of literature showing that abdominal symptomatology is a common presentation for Covid-19,” said Mitch Wilson, a radiologist and clinical lecturer at the University of Alberta in Canada.
The researchers examined findings from 36 studies published through July 15 to reach their conclusions.
In addition to gastrointestinal symptoms, they also determined potential signs radiologists should look for while conducting abdominal imaging that could be evidence of Covid-19 infection.
Those signs include inflammation of the small and large bowel, the air within the bowel wall (pneumatosis), and bowel perforation (pneumoperitoneum), the researchers said.
The signs are quite rare, and could indicate patients with advanced disease, they said.
“Seeing these things is not necessarily telling us a patient has Covid-19. It could be from a variety of potential causes,” said Wilson.
“But one of those potential causes is infection from the virus, and in an environment where Covid-19 is very prevalent, it’s something to consider and potentially raise as a possibility to the referring physician,” he added.