Though COVID-19 calls to mind common symptoms such as fever and cough, at least 16% of infected patients have only gastrointestinal symptoms, according to a large research review.
A team from the University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry in Canada reviewed 36 studies published through mid-July. The researchers found that 18% presented with gastrointestinal symptoms, while 16% may only have those symptoms.
Though COVID gastrointestinal symptoms vary widely, they can include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and generalized abdominal pain.
"There's a growing amount of literature showing that abdominal symptomatology is a common presentation for COVID-19," said study co-author Mitch Wilson, a radiologist and clinical lecturer at the university.
Researchers urge abdominal radiologists to remain vigilant while imaging patients during the pandemic. During imaging, they should look for signs of inflammation of the bowel, air within the bowel wall and bowel perforation. Though these signs are rare, they could suggest patients have advanced disease.
"Seeing these things is not necessarily telling us a patient has COVID-19," Wilson said in a university news release. "It could be from a variety of potential causes. 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."
The findings were recently published in the journal Abdominal Radiology.
The World Health Organization offers more information on COVID-19 symptoms.
SOURCE: University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, news release, Nov. 3, 2020