Reassurance and peace of mind is just what I needed when I spoke to Dr Ahmed Bachelani from London Harley Street Practice. I caught COVID-19 in the UK in late February 2020. Ten months on from recovering from coronavirus (I lost my sense of smell for 3 months and felt generally unwell for a few days) I wanted to check that everything was ok. I knew I had coronavirus as I tested positive for antibodies a few weeks after I recovered.
As well as other GP services (including a full range of testing and complimentary medicine) London Harley Street Practice are offering something very interesting: a comprehensive health screen to ensure you are in the best of health after coronavirus. The virus has been found to cause an inflammatory reaction in the short and long-term affecting many parts of the body including lungs, kidneys, liver, heart and of course in the blood. These checks are designed to be a baseline of health assessment which should be regularly reviewed and monitored as per medical guidance from your doctor.
There are 3 health checks available (Bronze, Silver and Gold). To satisfy my hypochondriac mind I booked in for the Gold option and made my way to 96 Harley Street. London Harley Street Practice is comfortable and friendly. Dr Bachelani is a highly experienced GP with additional expertise in Immunopathology. He is logical, friendly and pragmatic.
I met Dr Bachelani and the 60 minute consultation started with a chat all about what my symptoms were, how I am feeling now and we talked through the various tests. Having a chat about the virus is really helpful as it also brings up previous health issues and we talked about how to tackle those as well, so the consultation went way beyond coronavirus and gave me a plan to tackle other issues too.
We started with a full Cardiovascular, Respiratory and Abdominal examination. The examination included checking for swollen glands (lymph nodes) which may indicate underlying infection or inflammatory processes. My ankles were checked for swelling which can be caused by numerous illnesses including poor venous circulation, heart and liver problems. The cardiovascular examination consisted of my heart sounds being listened to, checking for abnormal extra sounds called murmurs, and my carotid pulses to ensure no presence of silent blockage. My blood pressure was taken as well as my pulses felt in my wrist and on my feet. These are great baseline indications of health especially after coronavirus. We also measured my height and weight where I discovered I was 2cm shorter than I thought I was!
Dr Bachelani first checked my oxygen saturations and then listened to my whole chest to check it was all clear, the presence of any extra abnormal sounds like wheezing or “crackles” which may indicate the presence of lung damage. A chest x-ray was performed to check that my lungs appear normal and no visible scarring or shadowing were present. The chest x-ray can also detect any fluid in the lungs as well as checking the heart is not enlarged. This is really thorough and gives me a lot of reassurance as an x-ray will show up things, I may not be aware about like fibrosis which is fine but widespread scarring of the lung tissue causing it to become thick and stiff, thus preventing it from functioning normally. This may present itself as shortness of breath especially on exercising that was not present before the Covid-19 infection.
Next, a Full 12 lead ECG – This short painless investigation is to check both the rhythm and for any heart damage. I am hooked up to the 12 leads and a reading is taken instantly with instant results printed out showing that my heart rate, rhythm and electrical activity of my heart at rest are normal and healthy. So far so good.
Although I didn’t have a bad cough during the virus, a lung spirometry test was up next which looks at the capacity and function of the lungs. I blow into a spirometer machine which measures how fast and also how much air I can breathe out in one breath. The reading tells me how well my lungs work by measuring how much air my lungs can hold (lung capacity) and also how quickly I exhale. If lungs are stiff from the scarring this can show up as a reduced lung capacity.
One of the most important elements of this check-up is comprehensive blood testing. Testing includes a full haematology and biochemistry profile (25 specific readings) relating to liver, kidney, diabetes, cholesterol, bone profile and iron. The key elements of this are also Inflammatory markers, tissue damage, heart muscle / skeletal muscle damage and many more.
Another important element of the blood test is the measurement of vitamin D levels. Data from observational studies have suggested that vitamin D supplementation can lower the odds of developing respiratory infections including coronavirus. During autumn and winter, everyone is advised to take vitamin D to keep their bones and muscles healthy and to support their general health when you cannot get vitamin D from natural sunlight.
The other intriguing test included is a test for COVID-19 IgG antibodies. A positive COVID-19 IgG antibody test means that I previously had or have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19, and that my immune system developed antibodies in response to it, even 10 months later. This doesn’t mean I am immune from contracting COVID-19 again as the knowledge regarding this virus is still under research, however it does show that I did mount an immune response to the infection.
An hour later, I was on the way home and wondering what the results will show. A day later (on Saturday) my blood results were sent to me by email which reassured me as they were clearly labelled with a traffic light type system.
A few days later, a detailed personalised report was emailed to me, highlighting the results, any insights, problems and an action plan. Also included is another consultation with Dr Bachelani to discuss the results and answer any questions I had.
Overall, I was pleased to see I was in good health 10 months after coronavirus and better still, some reassurance that I was still producing antibodies against the virus.
Post COVID-19 health checks at London Harley Street Practice cost from £295.
To discover more, visit: londonhspractice.co.uk
All imagery courtesy of London Harley Street Practice. This feature has been reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Ahmed Bachelani.
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