COVID-19 leaves lasting impacts on lung functioning

Updated: Jul. 27, 2020 at 9:26 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Doctors say only about 20 percent of COVID-19 patients end up in the hospital with serious complications from the virus.

“About 40 percent of those develop a phenomenon called ARDS. It stands for acute respiratory distress syndrome. Those patients have shortness of breath, increase oxygen requirements and changes on their chest x-rays,” says pulmonologist Catherine Wentowsky, M.D.

Ochsner pulmonologist Wentowsky, M.D. says those are patients who are very sick, but not always in the ICU.

She says it can take months for patients to recover from ARDS, but the inflammatory nature of COVID-19 patients has doctors concerned about the possible long term lung damages that may be caused.

“And, they may never fully recover their lung function. It’s hard for us to know for sure,” says Wentowsky, M.D.

Dr. Wentowsky says it’s too early to tell.

“From a medical standpoint it hasn’t been long enough to determine what the long term outlooks will be. That’s impossible at this point, but there have been a number of studies that have tried to answer our questions about long term outcomes,” says Wentowsky, M.D.

Pulmonologist Dr. David Janz says some COVID-19 patients are suffering for weeks and even months with an acute lung problem.

“That’s all normal with this illness in the weeks and months after it, but again in the long term, in the years to come, it’s not common to have long lasting lung damage and time will tell if COVID-19 is different from everything else,” says pulmonologist David Janz, M.D.

“At the beginning of this, we were finding out that the patients out of China were potentially losing 20 to 30 percent of lung functions after they had recovered,” says health educator, Eric Griggs, M.D.

Dr. Griggs says COVID-19 can have serious effects on a persons overall system causing an increase in potential blood clots.

“The issue with the clots is that they decrease the blood flow to vital organs, like the brain, heart and your lungs. That’s where you end up seeing the long term effects taking place,” says Griggs, M.D.

“What we’re concerned about from these studies and things we’ve seen since COVID started is this progressive fibrotic irreversible lung disease and what patients will note is the scaring on cat scans, but also declining lung function,” says Wentowsky, M.D.

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