Adapting the UK Biobank brain imaging protocol and analysis pipeline for the C-MORE multi-organ study of COVID-19 survivors
Griffanti L., Raman B., Alfaro-Almagro F., Filippini N., Cassar MP., Sheerin F., Okell TW., McConnell FAK., Chappell MA., Wang C., Arthofer C., Lange FJ., Andersson J., Mackay CE., Tunnicliffe E., Rowland M., Neubauer S., Miller KL., Jezzard P., Smith SM.
ABSTRACTSARS-CoV-2 infection has been shown to damage multiple organs, including the brain. Multiorgan MRI can provide further insight on the repercussions of COVID-19 on organ health but requires a balance between richness and quality of data acquisition and total scan duration. We adapted the UK Biobank brain MRI protocol to produce high-quality images while being suitable as part of a post-COVID-19 multiorgan MRI exam. The analysis pipeline, also adapted from UK Biobank, includes new imaging-derived phenotypes (IDPs) designed to assess the effects of COVID-19. A first application of the protocol and pipeline was performed in 51 COVID-19 patients post-hospital discharge and 25 controls participating in the Oxford C-MORE study.The protocol acquires high resolution T1, T2-FLAIR, diffusion weighted images, susceptibility weighted images, and arterial spin labelling data in 17 minutes. The automated imaging pipeline derives 1575 IDPs, assessing brain anatomy (including olfactory bulb volume and intensity) and tissue perfusion, hyperintensities, diffusivity, and susceptibility. In the C-MORE data, these quantitative measures were consistent with clinical radiology reports. Our exploratory analysis tentatively revealed that recovered COVID-19 patients had a decrease in frontal grey matter volumes, an increased burden of white matter hyperintensities, and reduced mean diffusivity in the total and normal appearing white matter in the posterior thalamic radiation and sagittal stratum, relative to controls. These differences were generally more prominent in patients who received organ support. Increased T2* in the thalamus was also observed in recovered COVID-19 patients, with a more prominent increase for non-critical patients.This initial evidence of brain changes in COVID-19 survivors prompts the need for further investigations. Follow-up imaging in the C-MORE study is currently ongoing, and this protocol is now being used in large-scale studies. The pipeline is widely applicable and will contribute to new analyses to hopefully clarify the medium to long-term effects of COVID-19.HighlightsUK Biobank brain MRI protocol and pipeline was adapted for multiorgan MRI of COVID-19High-quality brain MRI data from 5 modalities are acquired in 17 minutesAnalysis pipeline derives 1575 IDPs of brain anatomy, perfusion, and microstructureEvidence of brain changes in COVID-19 survivors was found in the C-MORE studyThis MRI protocol is now being used in multiple large-scale studies on COVID-19