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Decoding Long Covid: A Hepatologist Explains Why Patients With Chronic Liver Disease Are At a Higher Risk

Representative image. News18 Hindi.

Representative image. News18 Hindi.

Some Covid-19 patients have shown raised liver enzymes, leading doctors to think that there is a possible direct implication of Covid-19 on the liver.

Decoding Long COVID
As we reach what seems to be the end of the deadly second wave of Covid-19 in India, several recovering patients stare at a long haul of dealing with persisting symptoms — now being defined as ‘long Covid’ by doctors. In light of the situation, News18 will run a 15-day series ‘Decoding Long Covid ‘where doctors with different specialisations will address concerns, recommend ways to deal with them and suggest when to seek help.

In today’s column, Dr Swapnil Sharma, consultant liver transplant and HPB surgery at Fortis Hospital, Mulund in Mumbai, explains how the coronavirus increases people’s mortality risks and impacts the liver in the long run.

Speaking to News18 the doctor said, “Post recovery, it has been found that Covid-19 patients with chronic liver disease (CLD) are at a higher risk of mortality than patients without Chronic Liver Disease. Alcoholic Liver Disease is independently associated with an increased risk for mortality in patients with COVID19 infection."

Some Covid-19 patients have shown raised liver enzymes, leading doctors to think that there is a possible direct implication of Covid-19 on the liver.

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“A possible mechanism of liver involvement by the Covids-19 virus is either direct infection or secondary liver injury due to Covid-19 related hypoxic and cytokine storms. In some cases, it can also be a drug-induced liver injury since Covid patients are treated with high doses of medication," he added. Dr Sharma explained that such injury needs to be closely monitored post recovery and has to be treated with medication.

The doctor warned that those with non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH), who have also been through Covid, can have adverse mortality outcomes and can continue to have morbidities post-recovery.

“Therefore, such patients must be extra careful as their immunity is low. They should have a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Patients with Hepatitis B and C infection must continue their treatment and follow up with their Hepatologist regularly post COVID recovery," said the doctor.

Dr Sharma explained that liver transplant recipients who develop Covid-19 infection have similar outcomes in terms of mortality compared to the general population after recovery. Liver recipients are advised to stay in touch with their Transplant Surgeon/ Physician during their recovery phase.

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first published:June 19, 2021, 10:00 IST