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The respiratory consequences of acute COVID-19 infection and related symptoms tend to resolve 4 weeks post-infection. However, for some patients, new, recurrent, or persisting symptoms remain beyond the acute phase and persist for months, post-infection. The symptoms that remain have been referred to as long-COVID. A number of research sites employed 129 Xe magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) during the pandemic and evaluated patients post-infection, months after hospitalization or home-based care as a way to better understand the consequences of infection on 129 Xe MR gas-exchange and ventilation imaging. A systematic review and comprehensive search were employed using MEDLINE via PubMed (April 2023) using the National Library of Medicine's Medical Subject Headings and key words: post-COVID-19, MRI, 129 Xe, long-COVID, COVID pneumonia, and post-acute COVID-19 syndrome. Fifteen peer-reviewed manuscripts were identified including four editorials, a single letter to the editor, one review article, and nine original research manuscripts (2020-2023). MRI and MR spectroscopy results are summarized from these prospective, controlled studies, which involved small sample sizes ranging from 9 to 76 participants. Key findings included: 1) 129 Xe MRI gas-exchange and ventilation abnormalities, 3 months post-COVID-19 infection, and 2) a combination of MRI gas-exchange and ventilation abnormalities alongside persistent symptoms in patients hospitalized and not hospitalized for COVID-19, 1-year post-infection. The persistence of respiratory symptoms and 129 Xe MRI abnormalities in the context of normal or nearly normal pulmonary function test results and chest computed tomography (CT) was consistent. Longitudinal improvements were observed in long-term follow-up of long-COVID patients but mean 129 Xe gas-exchange, ventilation heterogeneity values and symptoms remained abnormal, 1-year post-infection. Pulmonary functional MRI using inhaled hyperpolarized 129 Xe gas has played a role in detecting gas-exchange and ventilation abnormalities providing complementary information that may help develop our understanding of the root causes of long-COVID. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: 1 TECHNICAL EFFICACY: Stage 5.

Original publication




Journal article


J Magn Reson Imaging

Publication Date



129Xe MRI, dissolved phase MRI, gas-exchange MRI, hyperpolarized, long-COVID, ventilation defects