Doctors Should Watch for Punctured Lungs in COVID Patients

By Robert Preidt
HealthDay reporter

TUESDAY September 15, 2020 (HealthDay News) – Perforated lungs occur in up to 1 in 100 hospital patients with COVID-19, according to a new study.

Before the pandemic, this problem was typically seen in very tall young men or older patients with severe lung disease. But some British researchers noticed that several patients with COVID-19 developed the disease and decided to investigate.

“We started to see patients with perforated lungs, even among those who had not been put on a ventilator,” said Stefan Marciniak, professor at the Institute for Medical Research at the University of Cambridge.

“To see if this was a real association, I appealed to my respiratory colleagues across the UK via Twitter,” Marciniak said in an academic press release. “The response was dramatic – it was clearly something others in the field were seeing.”

The researchers noted that damage to the lungs can lead to a puncture. As air escapes, it collects in the space between the lung and the chest, causing lung collapse. This is also called a pneumothorax.

For the study, Marciniak analyzed data from 16 UK hospitals. He found that 0.91% of their COVID-19 patients had developed a perforated lung.

Of those patients with a perforated lung, 63% survived, but older patients had an increased risk of death. The survival rate for those under 70 was 71%, compared to 42% for those who were older, according to the study. The results are in September 9 European Respiratory Journal.

Patients with abnormally acidic blood, called acidosis, also had poorer results. Acidosis can result from poor lung function.

“Doctors should be alert to the possibility of a perforated lung in patients with COVID-19, even in people who would not be considered typical at-risk patients,” Marciniak said.

“Many of the cases that we have reported were discovered accidentally – that is, their doctor did not suspect a pulmonary perforation and the diagnosis was made by chance,” he noted.

Researchers said COVID-19 can lead to perforation of the lung in several ways, including the formation of cysts in the lungs.

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SOURCE: University of Cambridge, press release, September 9, 2020

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