Video reveals lung damage in US coronavirus patient: ‘People need to take this seriously’

By Brian Fung and Jen Christensen | CNN

A video shows the lungs of a man who had been asymptomatic a few
days earlier.

Now, the patient has Covid-19 and his lungs are failing to
function properly, said Dr. Keith Mortman, the chief of thoracic
surgery at George Washington University Hospital. The Washington,
D.C., hospital recently released a 3D video of the coronavirus
patient’s lungs.

The imagery shows extensive damage to the lungs of a generally
healthy 59-year-old male with high blood pressure, Mortman said.
Since becoming seriously ill, the patient requires a ventilator to
help him breathe, but even on the highest setting, it’s not
enough. He also needs another machine that circulates and then
oxygenates his blood, Mortman said.

“This is not a 70, 80-year-old immunosuppressed, diabetic
patient,” Mortman said. “Other than high blood pressure, he has
no other significant medical issues. This is a guy who’s minding
his own business and gets it … If we were to repeat the 360VR
images now, that is one week later, there is a chance that the
infection and inflammatory process could be worse.”

Areas marked in yellow on the video represent infected and
inflamed parts of the lung, Mortman said. When the lungs encounter
a viral infection, the organ will start to seal the virus off. From
the scan, it is clear that the damage isn’t localized to a single
area, but instead covers massive swaths of both lungs, showing how
rapidly and aggressively the infection can take hold, even in
younger patients. A patient with healthy lungs would have no yellow
on the scan, he said.

The patient remains in critical condition in the ICU.

“For these patients who essentially present in progressive
respiratory failure, the damage to the lungs is rapid and
widespread (as evidenced in the VR video),” Mortman said in an
email. “Unfortunately, once damaged to this degree, the lungs can
take a long time to heal. For approximately 2-4% (depending on
which numbers you believe) of patients with Covid-19, the damage is
irreversible and they will succumb to the disease.”

The coronavirus is primarily respiratory in nature. It “gets
into the mucus membranes, and then it’s in the lung. The way the
body tries to control that is with inflammation,” Mortman
said.

The yellow marks both infection and inflammation. “So you get
this pretty strong inflammatory process in the lungs in the
body’s attempt to control the infection,” Mortman said.

Inflammation prevents the lungs from being able to oxygenate the
blood and to remove carbon dioxide. That would cause a patient to
gasp, or inhale a lot of air to balance the oxygen and carbon
dioxide levels

The images suggest that the words to describe common symptoms
— coughing and shortness of breath — can’t really capture the
impact of the virus on the body.

In some people, Mortman said, the damage will be irreversible
— making it imperative that Americans heed advice on social
distancing and self-isolation.

“I want people to see this and understand what this can do,”
Mortman said. “People need to take this seriously.”

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The hospital typically uses the CT imaging technology that produced
the video for cancer screenings and to plan surgeries. But for the
first time, the technology has now been applied to fighting the
novel coronavirus.

“A lot of us, we are walking in the dark with this,” Mortman
said. “So we want to understand it as best we can. This was our
first patient, but I am sure he is the first of what will likely
become many in the coming weeks.”

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Video reveals lung damage in US coronavirus patient: ‘People need to take this seriously’