Recovery of Lung Function After COVID-19 Occurs Slowly Over 6-Month Period

A study has revealed that spontaneous recovery of lung function after COVID-19-related pneumonia may appear faster at first but occurs more slowly thereafter over 6-month period, likely as a result of the different degree of severity of the disease.

Recovery of Lung Function After COVID-19 Occurs Slowly Over 6-Month Period
Photo: Lung Function Recovery | InStyleHealth


How Does COVID-19 Affect Your Lungs?

COVID-19 affects your lungs by making it tough for you to breath as the virus is making your lungs inflamed. This lung inflammation can lead to pneumonia – an infection of the tiny air sacs, called the alveoli, inside your lungs where your blood exchanges oxygen and carbon dioxide.

COVID 19 virus moves down to your respiratory tract – which is the airway that includes your mouth, nose, throat, and lungs. The lower airways have more ACE2 receptors than the rest of our respiratory tract. This is why COVID-19 has the likelihood to go deeper compared to other viruses like the common cold.

Experts evaluated lung function in 40 individuals with COVID-19 pneumonia. They acquired spirometry measurements including lung volumes, mainly total lung capacity and lung diffusion capacity for carbon monoxide at 3 months following hospital discharge. Individuals who had restrictive ventilatory defect or impaired lung diffusion capacity for carbon monoxide or both underwent re-assessment at 6 months utilizing global spirometry and high-resolution computed tomography scanning of the chest.

There were 19 patients or 48% of the subject group, had normal pulmonary functional tests, while 21 or 52% showed residual lung function abnormalities at 3 months following hospital discharge. For patients with lung function abnormalities, 4 or 19% had loss of lung volume only as evidenced by total lung capacity reduction from group 1, 13 or 62% had reduced total lung capacity and lung diffusion capacity for carbon monoxide from group 2, and 4 or 19% had isolated reduction in lung diffusion capacity for carbon monoxide from group 3.

During the 6-month follow-up, all individuals in group 1 improved, although only one attained normalization of total lung capacity. From group 2, while total lung capacity and lung diffusion capacity for carbon monoxide increased significantly, only 3 patients attained normal values. And in group 3, lung diffusion capacity for carbon monoxide improved for most individuals and normalized at 50%.

Meanwhile, an internal-built chest high-resolution computed tomography scan severity score at 6 months was significantly correlated with total lung capacity and lung diffusion capacity for carbon monoxide.

Outcomes revealed the utility of pulmonary function tests for detecting the existence and nature of the residual lung damage following COVID-19-related pneumonia and for monitoring its natural course. Experts have emphasized that individuals who most likely will not recover at 6 months, and perhaps event better at 3 months, should be identified and treated accordingly to maximize the potential recovery of their pulmonary function.

 

Source: Respir Med 2021;doi:10.1016/j.rmed.2021.106541

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