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Some COVID-19 Pneumonia Cases Are Like Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Reporter: Irina Robu, PhD

Doctors around the world are still learning about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), but it’s obvious that the most serious cases include severe respiratory symptoms that can damage a person’s lungs. The COVID-19 can cause pneumonia which can lead to a more severe condition called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Fluid buildup in the lungs prevents them from filling with air, decreasing the amount of oxygen that reaches the bloodstream.

At the start, COVID-19 pneumonia presents with the resulting characteristics such as low elastance (the amount of gas in the lung), low ventilation-to-perfusion, low lung weight and low lung recruit ability (amount of non-aerated tissue). When the coronavirus reaches the lungs, it causes viral pneumonia. The lungs can then become filled with fluid. The COVID-19 disease can be mild, but more severe cases may require hospitalization. The infections associated with the disease can  escalate to the point a patient develops ARDS. The higher mortality rate for COVID-19 patients who develop ARDS may be attributable to other symptoms of the coronavirus.

Like many viruses, the respiratory droplets related with COVID-19 attach to the back of a person’s throat or nose, then move through the respiratory tract. The human body replies to viruses by trying to fight them off, which causes inflammation. Some scientists also suggested that pneumonia that presents in COVID-19 tends to be bilateral, meaning it affects both lungs. Fluid buildup in the lungs prevents them from filling with air, decreasing the amount of oxygen that reaches the bloodstream.

Medical experts are correspondingly trying to determine if pneumonia caused by the coronavirus is more likely to become severe and cause ARDS. The limited number of tests performed on COVID-19 patients makes it impossible to say at this time. Doctors may prescribe antiviral medication to treat pneumonia caused by the flu. It’s unclear if any medicines are reliable for patients diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Pneumonia caused by a virus tends to show up on CT scans as hazy white patches known as ground-glass opacities. The doctors at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City who studied CT scans from COVID-19 patients noticed those hazy patches tended to cluster around the edge of both lungs.

Imaging the lungs in a patient who may have COVID-19 can be problematic, since imaging machines necessitate thorough disinfecting after they’re used to take an X-ray or CT scan of a patient suspected of having the coronavirus.

SOURCE

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/928807

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