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Post-Covid-19, damaged lungs can repair themselves | Research
A recent study has suggested that after recovery from coronavirus, damaged lungs can repair themselves.
Prabhash K Dutta
September 9, 2020
Damaged lungs are among the most serious impacts of Covid-19 on a patient. Scars have been found on the lungs of people who have recovered from Covid-19, thus limiting the person’s breathing capacity.
Now, a study conducted in Austria has brought a positive hope for those surviving Covid-19. Doctors have been debating world over whether a patient’s lungs can fully regain their strength after recovery from Covid-19.
The study, yet to be peer reviewed, evaluated 82 severe cases of Covid-19 post-recovery. They were evaluated for “the cardio-pulmonary damage in Covid-19 survivors at 6, 12, and 24 weeks after discharge”. This study was conducted between April and June
The researchers noted that a comparison of CT scans of the lungs of Covid-19 survivors, taken at the end of six weeks and 12 weeks after discharge from hospital, showed that on an average, the damage to lungs had reduced significantly.
At six weeks, 88 per cent of patients with severe Covid-19 showed signs of lung damage shown typically in CT scan films as ground glass. At 12 weeks, 56 per cent patients showed such lung damage.
This means, though patients’ lungs remained damaged weeks after they recovered from Covid-19, the breathing chambers showed remarkable ability to repair themselves over time. An active pulmonary rehabilitation medical care can help faster repair of the lungs.
This was confirmed in another study that was conducted in France on pulmonary rehabilitation.
“Patients, who spent less time bedridden between ICU and PR [pulmonary rehabilitation], recovered faster. These results show the importance of PR in patients post Covid-19, the sooner and the longer, the better,” the researchers concluded.
This study showed that recovered Covid-19 patients showed marked improvements in their lungs capacity, muscle strength, fatigue and anxiety if they underwent pulmonary rehabilitation.
Both the studies raise hope that damage to lungs due to Covid-19 can be managed successfully. This finding is particularly significant as damage to lungs has been found even in asymptomatic patients.
In an interview to India Today , TV, Director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Dr Randeep Guleria confirmed this as “something that has emerged recently”.
He said, “People who carried out CT scans of asymptomatic cases found that in about 20-30 per cent cases there were some patches in the lung when the cases were asymptomatic.”
Dr Guleria, however, also said these Covid-19 scars on lungs are repaired by the body’s own immunity, except in a few cases. “In most of them, these patches vanished spontaneously without leaving any residual damage. But in some cases, it did cause scarring of lungs,” he added.