Texas Surgeon Says Coronavirus Lungs Look Worse Than The Worst Smoker’s Lungs

A Texas surgeon says post-Covid lungs are worse than the worst smoker’s lungs. 

Dr. Brittany Bankhead-Kendall of Lubbock, Texas, tweeted that many of her Covid-19 patients’ lungs had dense scarring that was comparable but much worse than someone who is a hardcore smoker. 

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

Bankhead-Kendall is an assistant professor of surgery with Texas Tech University in Lubbock. The physician has treated thousands of patients since Rona made its debut in the states back in March, CBS News reports. Each patient that she’s treated has shown a severe chest X-ray, and those who were symptomatic show a severe chest X-ray 70 percent to 80 percent of the time. “There are still people who say ‘I’m fine. I don’t have any issues,’ and you pull up their chest X-ray and they absolutely have a bad chest X-ray,” she said.

The surgeon said an X-ray of a healthy lung would be clean with a lot of black, which is usually air. Smoker’s lungs will show white lines that indicate scarring or congestion, and a Covid-10 lung will be filled with white. “You’ll either see a lot of that white, dense scarring, or you’ll see it throughout the entire lung. Even if you’re not feeling problems now, the fact that that’s on your chest X-ray — it sure is indicative of you possibly having problems later on,” she said.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert and senior scholar at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, said Covid-19 patients could be impacted for years. “When someone recovers from pneumonia, whether it’s a bacterial pneumonia or a viral pneumonia, it’s going to take some time for their chest X-rays to improve. Chest X-rays lag your clinical improvement. So you may be better, but your chest X-ray still looks bad,” he said. “And we know that people with COVID-19 can get severe pneumonia, and some of that pneumonia will lead to damage to the lungs that will take time to heal. And some of it may be permanent.”

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