clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Post-COVID-19 lungs may be worse than smokers’ lungs, Texas surgeon says

A Texas trauma surgeon said X-rays show dense scarring on people’s lungs after COVID-19 diagnosis

Administrative worker Veronica Esparza, right, hands a COVID-19 testing kit to a woman at a testing site in Los Angeles, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020.
Administrative worker Veronica Esparza, right, hands a COVID-19 testing kit to a woman at a testing site in Los Angeles, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020.
Jae C. Hong, Associated Press

A Texas trauma surgeon said she has seen plenty of X-rays that show post-COVID-19 lungs have worse scarring than lungs of smokers.

What’s going on?

Dr. Brittany Bankhead-Kendall, an assistant professor of surgery with Texas Tech University, in Lubbock, said she’s seen severe X-rays every time for COVID-19 patients, according to CBS News.

  • She said every symptomatic patient has dense scarring on their lungs. While about 70% to 80% of asymptomatic patients have scarring. She said a normal lung appears clean with lots of black on an X-ray. But a smoker’s lung has some white lines. A COVID-19 lung, though, is filled with white, she said.
  • She recently tweeted: “Post-COVID lungs look worse than any type of terrible smoker’s lung we’ve ever seen. And they collapse. And they clot off. And the shortness of breath lingers on... & on... & on.”

She told CBS Dallas-Fort Worth that death shouldn’t be the only worry for COVID-19.

  • “Everyone’s just so worried about the mortality thing and that’s terrible and it’s awful,” she said. “But man, for all the survivors and the people who have tested positive this is — it’s going to be a problem.”

Bigger picture

Experts continue to study how COVID-19 impacts those who survive the potentially fatal disease, according to Fox News. Researchers have long suggested patients suffer “long COVID,” where patients experience symptoms months later. Such symptoms of “long COVID” include fatigue, headaches and others.

As the Deseret News reported, there’s an estimated 10% to 25% of COVID-19 survivors who struggle with long-term symptoms — some months after a diagnosis.