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Post-COVID lungs worse than the lungs of the worst smokers, says the surgeon

A Texas trauma surgeon says it is rare for X-rays from any of her COVID-19 patients to return without dense scarring. Dr. Brittany Bankhead-Kendall tweeted, “Post-COVID lungs look worse than any horrible smoker’s lung we’ve ever seen. And they collapse. And they solidify. And shortness of breath stays on … and on. “

a close-up of a blue wall: normal-smoker-covid-chest-x-rays.jpg

© Dr. Brittany Bankhead-Kendall / CBS Dallas

Extensive lung damage is seen in COVID patients and cases increase in children



“Everyone is just so worried about mortality, and it’s awful, and it’s awful,” she told CBS Dallas-Fort Worth. “But man, for all the survivors and the people who have tested positive, this is – it’s going to be a problem.”

Bankhead-Kendall, an assistant professor of surgery at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, has treated thousands of patients since the pandemic began in March.

a person wearing a mask: Lubbock, Texas trauma surgeon  Brittany Bankhead-Kendall.  / Credit: CBS Dallas

© Provided by CBS News
Lubbock, trauma surgeon in Texas, Dr. Brittany Bankhead-Kendall. / Credit: CBS Dallas

She says patients who have had COVID-19 symptoms show a severe x-ray of the breast each time, and those who were asymptomatic show a severe x-ray of the breast 70% to 80% of the time.

“There are still people who say ‘I’m fine. I have no problems’ and you pull X-ray of the chest and they definitely have a bad X-ray of the chest,” she said.

On radiographs of a normal lung, a smoker’s lung, and a COVID-19 lung that Bankhead-Kendall shared with CBS Dallas, the healthy lungs are clean with a lot of black, which is mostly air. In the smoker’s lung, white streaks indicate scarring and congestion, while the COVID lung is filled with white.

“You will either see a lot of the white, dense scarring, or you will see it throughout the lung. Even if you do not have problems now, the fact that it is on your x-ray of the breast – it is indicative that you may have problems later, ”she said.

a table topped with a blue background: x-rays of a normal lung, a smoker's lung, and a COVID patient's lung.  / Credit: Dr.  Brittany Bankhead-Kendall via CBS Dallas

© Provided by CBS News
X-rays of a normal lung, a smoker’s lung and a COVID patient’s lung. / Credit: Dr. Brittany Bankhead-Kendall via CBS Dallas

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert and senior researcher at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, told CBSN that some patients with severe COVID-19 could feel the effects in the coming years.

“When someone recovers from pneumonia, whether it is a bacterial pneumonia or a viral pneumonia, it will take some time for their x-rays to get better. Chest X-rays delay your clinical improvement. So you may be better, but your chest X-ray still looks bad, “he 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, which takes time to heal. And some of it may be permanent. “

He said the potential long-term health consequences are another reason why people should take warnings about the disease seriously.

“It’s not something you can blow off. This is not something you want. Because even if you survive, you can still have some serious complications that make it very difficult for you to go back to your baseline function.”

Bankhead-Kendall said it is important that if you experience shortness of breath after your COVID-19 disappears, keep in touch with your primary care physician.

She also points out: “There are no long-term implications of a vaccine that can ever be as bad as the long-term implications of COVID.”

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