COVID-19 can leave lasting impact on patient’s heart, lungs, say doctors

Many patients are advised to take blood thinners to prevent clotting post their recovery from coronavirus.

While primary focus remains on saving lives of persons contracting the coronavirus infection, doctors in Bengaluru like elsewhere in the country, remain worried about post-COVID-19 recovery disorders. Besides fatigue, headache, coughing, muscle pain, loss of appetite and smell, serious long lasting health issues including those threatening one’s life may need careful attention, experts say.

Dr S Sachidanand, Vice Chancellor of Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences and head of the state’s Death Audit Committee said over the course of the pandemic many medical colleges in the state, both government and private have risen to the challenge and set up post-COVID recovery OPDs (out-patient departments). He said as a general practice, all COVID-19 patients who were hospitalised are advised to monitor any discomfort or complaints they may experience in the fortnight of their discharge. The most common complications post COVID-19 relate to a patient’s hearts, lungs and kidneys.   

Dr Sachinand explained, “COVID-19 is known to attack the heart, lungs and kidneys. So often the complications are seen much later. Mostly asymptomatic patients do not exhibit any severe damage to their organs but it is mostly persons with existing comorbidities whose conditions worsen further.”

He, however, added that during the course of the pandemic treatment, modifications have been  made to minimise occurrence of such post-recovery disorders. “For example, we are using steroids when we sense some sort of damage to the lungs and timing of the usage is very important. So many post-recovery problems we are still addressing are those of patients who recovered before August-September.” 

Dr CN Manjunath, Director of Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research and nodal officer of COVID-19 testing in the state, said COVID-19 causes long-lasting clot formation tendency. “So we administer blood thinning medicine depending on the patient's condition. So we often have to give such medicines for anywhere between three-six weeks even for mildly symptomatic patients.”

For patients with already known heart conditions, they would be often advised to continue taking their regular medicines and investigation has to be taken up to further assess the course of treatment.  Take the case of Vishwanath*, 59, who was admitted to a Bengaluru private hospital for two weeks in the month of August for COVID-19 treatment.He had contracted the novel coronavirus after undergoing angioplasty earlier this year. He has been advised to take blood thinners in addition to his medicines for his heart condition. “Doctors have said that these medications are important for my well-being and a continuation of the COVID-19 treatment, even though I am quite fine now,” he said.

Dr Subha KJ, senior consultant overseeing COVID-19 care at KC General Hospital in Bengaluru said it is mostly small blood vessels that are prone to clots in any part of the body. “This means that many patients can get stroke or heart attacks. To prevent such orders we are carrying out four blood tests to check inflammation markers to identify vulnerable patients for all recovered patients,” she said. She added for patients with severe lung issues, who suffered from pneumonia and who were dependent on artificial oxygen supply may need close supervision.

She further said that patients who had borderline kidney diseases have seen their conditions worsen post their recovery. 

Dr Pramukh N, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon and acupuncture specialist said there needs to be a multi-prong approach to COVID-19 post-recovery treatment and even asymptomatic patients need to be screened. Pramukh is also the advisor of COVID Raksha initiative launched by Bengaluru South MP Tejasvi Surya. He said, “Post-recovery we see ayurveda, acupuncture giving us good results as part of alternative medicine to rehabilitate. Most patients who recover are extremely susceptible to bacterial infections as they are subjected to many immunosuppressants for COVID-19 treatment.”

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