Scientists from China and the United States concluded that coronavirus affects not only the lungs, but also the rest of the organs of the human body, and patients who managed to recover cannot fully regain their health. This is reported by the Jerusalem Post.
“COVID-19 is not just a respiratory disorder,” said Dr. Harlan Krumholtz, a cardiologist at Yale University. “It can affect the heart, the liver, the kidneys, the brain, the endocrine system and the blood system.”
There are no long-term survivors of this entirely new disease. Even its first victims in China are little more than three months removed from their ordeal. And physicians have been too busy treating the acutely ill to closely monitor the progress of the people worldwide known to have recovered from COVID-19.
Still, doctors are worried that in its wake, some organs whose function has been knocked off kilter will not recover quickly, or completely. That could leave patients more vulnerable for months or years to come.
“I think there will be long-term sequelae,” said Yale cardiologist Dr. Joseph Brennan, using the medical term for a disease’s downstream effects.
“I don’t know that for real,” he cautioned. “But this disease is so overwhelming” that some of the recovered are likely to face ongoing health concerns, he said.
Another question that could take years to answer is whether the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 may lie dormant in the body for years and spring back later in different form.
In a mid-March review of a dozen COVID-19 patients discharged from a hospital in Hong Kong, two or three were described as having difficulty with activities they had done in the past.
Dr. Owen Tsang Tak-yin, director of infectious diseases at Princess Margaret Hospital in Hong Kong, told reporters that some patients “might have around a drop of 20% to 30% in lung function” after their recovery.
Citing the history of lasting lung damage in SARS and MERS patients, a team led by University of California, Los Angeles radiologist Melina Hosseiny is recommending that patients who have recovered from COVID-19 get follow-up lung scans “to evaluate long-term or permanent lung damage including fibrosis.”
As doctors try to assess organ damage after COVID-19 recovery, there’s a key complication: Patients with disorders that affect the heart, liver, blood and lungs face a higher risk of becoming very sick with COVID-19 in the first place. That makes it difficult to distinguish COVID-19 after-effects from the problems that made patients vulnerable to begin with - especially so early in the game.