COVID-19 lungs worse than smoker lungs, surgeon says

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Chest X-rays from people who've had COVID-19 often show severe scarring, sometimes worse than that of a long-time smoker, CBS News reports. 

Brittany Bankhead-Kendall, MD, a trauma surgeon and critical care doctor at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock, tweeted "Post-COVID lungs look worse than any type of terrible smoker's lung we've ever seen. And they clott off. And the shortness of breath lingers… & on… & on." 

Symptomatic patients almost always had a subsequent chest X-ray that showed severe lung scarring, while asymptomatic patients had a worrisome X-ray 70 percent to 80 percent of the time, Dr. Bankhead-Kendall told CBS based on anecdotal experience. 

"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. "You'll see either a lot of that white, dense scarring or you'll see it throughout the entire lung. Even when 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." 

Dr. Bankhead-Kendall noted it's still too early to tell whether the severe lung scarring seen in some patients will heal. 

 

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