Lung damage after COVID-19 is worse than smokers' lungs: surgeon
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage states across America, one surgeon has issued a warning that may serve as a reminder to stay vigilant. According to CBS News, Dr. Brittany Bankhead-Kendall, a Lubbock, Texas trauma surgeon, tweeted an observation of COVID's impact on the lungs as she highlighted the likely long-term difficulties people will face.
"Post-COVID lungs look worse than any type of terrible smoker's lung we've ever seen. And they collapse. And they clot off. And the shortness of breath lingers on... & on... & on."
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but “post-Covid” lungs look worse than ANY type of terrible smoker’s lungs we’… https://t.co/w1exbfaOTJ— Brittany Bankhead-Kendall MD (@Brittany Bankhead-Kendall MD)1609753648.0
During an interview with CBS Dallas-Fort Worth, Bankhead-Kendall revealed what she thinks is far worse than the mortality rate that most people focus on. She expressed concern about the long-term impacts COVID-positive and even asymptomatic people may face.
"Everyone's just so worried about the mortality thing and that's terrible and it's awful," she told the publication. "But man, for all the survivors and the people who have tested positive this is — it's going to be a problem."
She went on to discuss the X-rays of symptomatic and asymptomatic which indicate "severe chest X-ray every time, and those who were asymptomatic show a severe chest X-ray 70% to 80% of the time." She also noted the bizarre phenomenon of internal damage for asymptomatic people.
"There are still people who say 'I'm fine. I don't have any issues,' and you pull up their chest X-ray and they absolutely have a bad chest X-ray," she said.
Bankhead-Kendall also offered photo comparisons of a healthy lung, a smoker's lung, and a COVID lung as she explained the distinctions between the three. "You'll either see a lot of that white, dense scarring or you'll see it throughout the entire lung. Even if you're not feeling problems now, the fact that that's on your chest X-ray — it sure is indicative of you possibly having problems later on," she said.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, also noted similar findings as he insisted that patients who suffered severe cases of COVID-19 could have difficulties for many years to come.
"When someone recovers from pneumonia, whether it's a bacterial pneumonia or a viral pneumonia, it's going to take some time for their chest X-rays to improve. Chest X-rays lag your clinical improvement. So you may be better, but your chest X-ray still looks bad," Adalja said. "And we know that people with COVID-19 can get severe pneumonia, and some of that pneumonia will lead to damage to the lungs that will take time to heal. And some of it may be permanent."
He also urged people not to dismiss the severity of the virus. "It's not something you can blow off. This isn't something you want to have. Because even if you survive, you still may be left with some severe complications that make it very hard for you to go back to your baseline functioning."
As of Friday, Jan. 15, the United States has reported more than 23 million positive coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic. The death toll is also rapidly approaching the 400,000 mark.
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