Lung damage in Covid patients 'tends to improve over time'

Coronavirus patients are vulnerable to long-term lung and heart conditions but for many sufferers the damage tends to improve over time, a study suggests.

Researchers in the Tyrolean region of Austria recruited 86 Covid-19 patients who had been admitted to hospital for the study, and they were scheduled to return for evaluation six, 12 and 24 weeks after being discharged.

Clinical examinations, laboratory tests, analysis of the amounts of oxygen and carbon dioxide in arterial blood, and lung function tests were carried out during these visits.

More than half of the patients had at least one persistent symptom, predominantly breathlessness and coughing, and CT scans still showed lung damage in 88 per cent of patients at their first visit.

But by the time of their next examination, 12 weeks after discharge, the symptoms had improved, and lung damage was reduced to 56 per cent.
A total of 56 patients (65 per cent) showed persistent symptoms at the time of their six-week visit.

Breathlessness was the most common symptom (40 patients, 47 per cent), followed by coughing (13 patients, 15 per cent). By the 12-week visit, breathlessness had improved and was present in 31 patients (39 per cent), but 13 patients (15 per cent) were still coughing.

At this stage, it is too early to have results from the evaluations at 24 weeks.



Dr Sabina Sahanic, part of the team that carried out the study, said: “The bad news is that people show lung impairment from Covid-19 weeks after discharge; the good news is that the impairment tends to ameliorate over time, which suggests the lungs have a mechanism for repairing themselves.”

Another study said that the sooner Covid-19 patients started a pulmonary rehabilitation programme after coming off ventilators, the better and faster their recovery.

Yara Al Chikhanie, a PhD student at the Dieulefit Sante clinic for pulmonary rehabilitation and the Hp2 Lab at the Grenoble Alps University in France, used a walking test to measure the weekly progress of 19 patients who had spent an average of three weeks in intensive care.

She said: “The most important finding was that patients who were admitted to pulmonary rehabilitation shortly after leaving intensive care progressed faster than those who spent a longer period in the pulmonary ward where they remained inactive.

“The sooner rehabilitation started and the longer it lasted, the faster and better was the improvement in patients’ walking and breathing capacities and muscle gain.

“Patients who started rehabilitation in the week after coming off their ventilators progressed faster than those who were admitted after two weeks.

“But how soon they can start rehabilitation depends on the patients being judged medically stable by their doctors. Despite the significant improvement, the average period of three weeks in rehabilitation wasn’t enough for them to recover completely.”

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