Post-COVID lungs look worse than smoker's lung, trauma surgeon says

Texas trauma surgeon Dr. Brittany Bankhead-Kendall says it's a rarity that any of her COVID-19 patients X-rays come back without dense scarring.

In one of her Twitter posts, she says "post-covid lungs look worse than any type of terrible smoker's lung we've ever seen."

"Everyone's just so worried about the mortality thing and that's terrible and it's awful. But man, and all the survivors and the people who have tested positive this is, it's going to be a problem," Dr. Bankhead-Kendall said.

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Many patients who initially experienced milder COVID-19 symptoms are now showing up at the doctor's office months later with debilitating problems. They're being called "long-haulers."

Like many, she's treated thousands of patients since March.

Of them, she tells CBS 11 News those who have had COVID-19 symptoms show a severe chest X-ray every time. And those who were asymptomatic show a severe chest X-ray 70% to 80% 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.

Here is a photo of a normal lung, smoker's lung and a COVID-19 lung that Dr. Bankhead-Kendall shared with CBS 11 News.

Dr. Bankhead-Kendall shared these photos of a normal lung, smokers lung and a COVID-19 lung.

KTVT, photos from Dr. Brittany Bankhead-Kendall, CNN

The healthy lungs are clean with black representing the air. In the smoker's lung, white lines are indicative of scarring and congestion. While the COVID lung is filled with white.

"You'll either see a lot of that white dense scarring or you'll see it throughout the entire lung. And 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," said Dr. Bankhead-Kendall.

She said it's too early to know the extent of COVID-19's impact on your body or if the scarring will heal, however she said it's important that if you're experiencing shortness of breath after your COVID-19 goes away, stay in touch with your primary care doctor.

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