ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) — COVID-19 is shining a light on how important lung health really is.
Some survivors of the virus are still facing long-lasting complications, including lung damage.
Mayo Clinic Florida transplant pulmonologist Dr. Sadia Shah said the lungs are one of the organs impacted for quite a few reasons.
“We can inhale the droplets through our nose and lungs. So, the lung is basically the organ that’s usually infected the worst,” Shah said. “Some patients may develop blood clots that go to the lungs and that can impact their gas exchange, so we’ve seen that as well.”
Shah added while a patient is experiencing COVID-19 complications, the lungs begin scarring. That means they do not have the ability to gas exchange like normal lungs can.
That scarring is irreversible.
“Depending how significant that scarring is, some of the patients will eventually need a transplant when these symptoms are significantly impacting their life,” Shah said.
In severe cases, a transplant may be necessary if a patient is at end- stage lung disease.
“So, when you’re considering patients for transplantation it is really important, they are functional, and the other organs are ok before we proceed with the transplantation,” Shah said.
Wait times for lung transplants have been an issue long before the pandemic and it may get worse.
But, there is new technology to help patients who may not meet the transplant requirements such as ex vivo lung perfusion.
“They (medical professionals) are able to place them (patients) on this machine, ex vivo perfusion, and be able to see whether or not those lungs are going to be restored,” Shah said.
Shah concluded by saying the gift of life is very important as the need for lung transplants increases.