The scarring on some coronavirus survivors’ lungs is worse than in those who smoke, a trauma surgeon in Texas recently said when speaking to just one of the possible long-term effects this novel disease can have on its victims.
“I don’t know who needs to hear this, but ‘post-Covid’ lungs look worse than ANY type of terrible smoker’s lungs we’ve ever seen,” Dr. Brittany Bankhead-Kendall wrote in a recent Twitter post.
“And they collapse. And they clot off. And the shortness of breath lingers on… & on… & on,” she added.
Speaking to CBS Dallas, Bankhead-Kendall said that most of the coronavirus patients she’s treated “show a severe chest X-ray every time,” noting that even those who contracted the virus but did not experience symptoms — they were asymptomatic — show a severe chest X-ray roughly 70% to 80% of the time.
In a clean X-ray, Bankhead-Kendall explained, a patient’s lungs will appear black. In a smoker’s, the X-ray will typically reveal white lines which she said indicate scarring and congestion. With a COVID-19 survivor, an X-ray commonly shows the lungs filled with white, indicating severe scarring and congestion.
“You’ll either see a lot of that white dense scarring or you’ll see it throughout the entire lung. And if you’re not feeling problems now the fact that that’s on your chest X-ray is indicative of you possibly having problems later on,” she told the news station.
“All the survivors and the people who have tested positive … it’s going to be a problem,” later on, she added.
Experts are still studying the lasting effects the novel virus may have on those who have survived it. Already, researchers have identified what has been called “long COVID,” when patients still experience certain symptoms of the virus months after recovering from it, such as severe fatigue, headache dyspnea and anosmia, among others.
A study in October, for example, suggested that older patients, those with a higher BMI and those who are female are possibly more at-risk for suffering long COVID.
More recently, a study published over the weekend furthered existing evidence long-COVID is very much a reality for many who have contracted the novel coronavirus, with researchers finding in what is said to be the largest cohort study on the topic to date that for some, certain COVID-19 symptoms — namely fatigue and muscle weakness — stick around for up to six months following the initial infection.
The researchers found that an estimated 76% of patients who were hospitalized due to COVID-19 reported at least one symptom of the novel virus months after they were discharged, with fatigue or muscle weakness and sleep difficulties being the most common.
“These results support that those with severe disease need post-discharge care,” the researchers concluded. “Longer follow-up studies in a larger population are necessary to understand the full spectrum of health consequences from COVID-19.”