Covid, permanent lung problems for 30% of those recovered


Heal yourself from COVID-19, but with aftermath on health which could last a long time. Infection with Sars-Cov-2 could in fact lead to long-term consequences on respiratory function and sometimes irreversibly compromise it, especially in patients after intensive care. So much so that in the most severe patients affected by Covid-19, 30% of those recovered will have permanent respiratory problems of pulmonary fibrosis.

This is the worrying scenario that comes from the digital conference of Italian pulmonology society with StemNet, the Federation of stem cell research associations, and the Italian mesenchymal stem group (Gism). Precisely these disorders, experts warn, will constitute a “new respiratory pathology of tomorrow and a new health emergency »for which it will be necessary to get ready in time, strengthening the Pneumology and providing ad hoc clinics and routes.

The first observations “closely reflect the results of follow-up studies carried out in China following the Sars pneumonia of 2003, very similar to that from Covid-19, confirming the suspicion that Covid-19 may also involve lung damage that does not go away when pneumonia resolves»Explains Luca Richeldi, member of the Technical and Scientific Committee, president of the Italian Society of Pneumology (Sip) and director of the Department of Pneumology at the Gemelli Polyclinic in Rome.

In the most serious patients affected by the infection, therefore, 30% of the healed will have permanent respiratory problems from pulmonary fibrosis: “In many Covid-19 patients who have been hospitalized or intubated we observe respiratory difficulties after discharge which could last for many months after the resolution of the infection and data collected in the past on patients with Sars show that survivors six months apart had still pulmonary anomalies clearly visible on thoracic radiographs and restrictive alterations of functionality. But above all – explains Richeldi – 30% of the patients recovered showed diffuse signs of pulmonary fibrosis, that is large scars on the lung with irreversible respiratory compromise: in practice breathing problems could arise even after a simple walk ». Furthermore, “these problems also occurred in young patients, with an incidence ranging from 30 to 75% of the cases evaluated”, underlined Angelo Corsico, director of Pneumology of the IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo Foundation and Full Professor of Pneumology at the University of Pavia.

Experts therefore fear that pulmonary fibrosis may represent tomorrow’s danger and for this reason they draw attention to the need for specific follow-up of patients who have been hospitalized, especially the most serious and the most frail elderly, who may need pharmacological treatment and dedicated rehabilitation programs. In other words, we will have “a new category of patients with Covid lung fibrotic scars with respiratory failure, which will certainly represent a new health problem,” warns Richeldi. Hence the warning from specialists who stress that it is necessary to provide respiratory rehabilitation clinics. In Pavia, the first post-Covid clinic dedicated to discharged patients has already been active since April: here they are subjected to radiographic examination of the chest, respiratory function tests, 6-minute walk test, thoracic and cardiac ultrasound and, if necessary, to thoracic CT for constant monitoring.