Medical experts have raised fear that recovered COVID-19 patients may still have to undergo certain checks in the hospital to ensure that they have not suffered any permanent damage to their lungs.
In a report by the BBC, the doctors disclosed that such patients could be left with lung scarring known as pulmonary fibrosis, which common symptoms include severe shortness of breath, coughing, and fatigue. It was also stated that I can’t be cured.
According to the report, an X-ray conducted on a patient’s lungs six weeks after he left the hospital revealed thin white lines known as reticular shadowing, which could indicate the early signs of scarring or pulmonary fibrosis.
The patient is billed to undergo another scan after 12 weeks to ascertain if the suspected scarring on his lungs has worsened.
An executive committee member of the British Society of Thoracic Imaging (BSTI), Sam Hare said the development was something to worry about.
Hare, who is also an advisor to the Royal College of Radiologists, however, added that there is no ample evidence yet to ascertain the extent and rate of lung damage caused by COVID-19
“With all these cases, we can’t say for certain at the moment,” he said.
“But usually with a virus or infection at six weeks, you would expect the scan to have returned to normal. It hasn’t and that’s the worry.”
A study conducted in China and published in March revealed 66 of 70 patients still had some level of lung damage after being discharged from hospital, BBC reports.
Several radiologists in the UK, who corroborated with the study, pointed out that about 30 percent of patients discharged from COVID-19 seem to show symptoms of lung scarring.
“In the six-week scans we’re seeing, so far I would say between 20% and 30% of patients who have been in hospital appear to show some early signs of lung scarring,” Hare added.
A similar trend with Sars and Mers — earlier coronavirus outbreaks — showed 20 percent and 60 percent of recovered patients also nursed issues related to pulmonary fibrosis.
Health experts said there’s a need to thinker how to address the problem because COVID-19 has spread to countries across the world.
A professor at the National Institute for Health Research (NHS) in England,Gisli Jenkins, who is running assessment clinics for those discharged from hospital with COVID-19 said: “We now need to understand how big the problem is and when we should intervene with treatment,”
“My real concern is that never before in our lifetime have so many people been subject to the same lung injury at the same time.”
Due to the concerns raised by doctors, the NHS has announced that it is opening specialist rehabilitation centres. (BBC)