The Perfect Enemy | 11% of COVID-19 survivors have residual lung damage, study finds
February 8, 2023

11% of COVID-19 survivors have residual lung damage, study finds

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A new study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine reveals about an 11% incidence of residual lung damage—known as interstitial lung disease—after COVID-19 hospitalization. Interstitial lung disease is a broad category of lung damage and disease defined by fibrotic scarring. The damage is often irreversible.

“For some people these fibrotic patterns may be stable or resolve, while for others they may lead to longer term lung fibrosis progression, worse quality of life and decreased life expectancy. Earlier detection of progression is essential to improving outcomes,” said study lead author Iain Stewart, PhD, of Imperial College London in a press release.

The study was based on the UK Interstitial Lung Disease (UKILD) study, which enrolled participants who were discharged from the hospital by March 2021 and followed through October 2021.

The lung characteristics of 209 study participants who had CT scans were compared to a wider post-hospitalization cohort of almost 3,500 people without a CT to stratify risk of residual lung abnormalities.   

Of the 209 with CT scans, 164 people (79.6%) had greater than 10% involvement of residual lung abnormalities, with risk factors of an abnormal chest x-ray (risk ratio [RR], 1.21; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.05 to 1.40) and severe illness requiring ventilation support (RR, 1.27; 95% CI, 1.07 to 1.55).

“These findings highlight the importance of radiological and physiological monitoring of patients at both early and later follow-up, and suggest up to 11% of people discharged from an acute COVID-19 admission are at risk of residual lung abnormalities,” the authors concluded.