It’s not being talked about, but early reports show coronavirus may cause permanent lung damage – even in young patients. A Belgian doctor who studied coronavirus patients said scans of young patients’ lungs was “nothing short of terrifying”.
As we get past the skewed (i.e. misreported) stats coming out of China, a pattern is beginning to emerge among recovered patients. Several studies are revealing those that recover have a high chance of suffering permanent or severe lung damage.
One study published in the US National Center for Biotechnology Information studied patients in Wuhan, China between January 1 and January 20. They found nearly 20% of the patients developed ARDS or acute respiratory distress syndrome, a type of respiratory failure that prevents a person’s lungs from providing organs with sufficient oxygen.
Another study published in The Lancet observed Wuhan patients between mid-December to early January. 29% of the patients developed ARDS.
Dr. Ignace Demeyer of Aalst, Belgium, came to the same conclusion. He said an increasing number of patients between the ages of 30 and 50 have presented severe lung damage despite having “blank medical records” that show no underlying conditions.
“They are people who do not smoke, who have no other conditions such as diabetes or heart failure.”
Hong Kong confirmed the findings after studying the first wave of recovered patients discharged from hospitals. They noted that 25% of recovered coronavirus patients were left with a 20% to 30% drop in lung function. Dr. Owen Tsang Tak-yin, the medical director of Hong Kong’s Infectious Disease Center, told reporters:
“While it’s too early to establish long-term effects of the disease, scans of nine patients’ lungs also “found patterns similar to frosted glass in all of them, suggesting there was organ damage.”
ARDS damage to lungs
Doctors say those who develop ARDS may take as long as 15 years to recover – if they recover at all. The long-term mortality rate for ARDS approaches 50%. Survivors experience significant exercise and movement limitations related to muscle wasting and weakening.