London: The bad news is that people have lung failure from COVID-19 weeks after discharge. The good news, however, is that the impairment tends to improve over time, suggesting that the lungs have a mechanism for repairing themselves, researchers said Monday.
The first follow-up of 86 patients infected with the coronavirus in the Tyrolean “ hot spot ” region of Austria, presented at the international congress of the European Respiratory Society, showed that COVID-19 patients can suffer from lung and heart damage in the long run, but for many it tends to improve over time.
Patients were scheduled to return for evaluation six, 12 and 24 weeks after discharge from hospital.
By the time of their first visit, more than half of the patients had at least one persistent symptom, mainly shortness of breath and cough, and CT scans still showed lung damage in 88% of patients.
However, by the time of their next visit 12 weeks after discharge, symptoms had improved and lung damage was reduced to 56%.
The mean age of the 86 patients included in this presentation was 61 years and 65% of them were male.
“The results show the importance of implementing structured follow-up care for patients with severe COVID-19 infection. Importantly, the CT scan revealed lung lesions in this group of patients who were not identified by lung function tests, “said clinical doctoral student Sabina Sahanic. at the University Clinic in Innsbruck, Austria.
“Knowing how patients have been affected in the long term by the coronavirus could allow symptoms and lung damage to be treated much earlier and could have a significant impact on other medical recommendations and advice,” she added.
Almost half of the 86 patients were current or former smokers and 65% of hospitalized patients were overweight or obese.
The damage from inflammation and fluid in the lungs caused by the coronavirus, which shows on CT scans as white patches called “ frosted glass, ” has also improved.
It was present in 74 patients (88%) at six weeks and 48 patients (56%) at 12 weeks.
At the six-week visit, echocardiograms showed that 48 patients (58.5%) had dysfunction of the left ventricle of the heart to the point where it relaxes and dilates (diastole).
Biological indicators of heart damage, blood clots, and inflammation were all significantly elevated.
“We don’t think left ventricular diastolic dysfunction is specific to COVID-19, but rather a sign of the severity of the disease in general,” Sahanic said.
“Fortunately, in the Innsbruck cohort, we did not observe any severe heart dysfunction associated with coronavirus in the post-acute phase. The diastolic dysfunction we observed also tended to improve over time.”
In a second presentation at the event, Yara Al Chikhanie, a doctoral student at the University of Grenoble Alpes, France, said that earlier COVID-19 patients began a pulmonary rehabilitation program after they stopped functioning on a ventilator , better and faster their recovery.
“How quickly they can begin rehabilitation depends on whether patients are deemed medically stable by their doctors. Despite the significant improvement, the average three-week rehabilitation period was not enough for them to make a full recovery. “said Chikhanie.