After recovering from a serious coronavirus infection, the last thing that most people would want would be another trip to the hospital.
But doctors have warned that tens of thousands of recovered patients will need to be recalled to the hospital to check if they have been left with permanent lung damage.
Worryingly, doctors believe that as many as 30% of patients could be left with lung scarring known as pulmonary fibrosis.
As a result, NHS England says that it is opening specialist rehabilitation centers.
Speaking to the BBC, Dr. Sam Hare, an executive committee member of the British Society of Thoracic Imaging and advisor to the Royal College of Radiologists, said: “In the six-week scans we’re seeing so far I would say between 20% and 30% of patients who have been in hospital appear to show some early signs of lung scarring.”
Pulmonary fibrosis is an irreversible condition that’s the end result of many different lung conditions.
The British Lung Foundation explained: “Pulmonary fibrosis is the end result of many different conditions that cause scar tissue to build up in your lungs and make breathing increasingly difficult. All types of pulmonary fibrosis are considered rare.”
NHS figures indicate that more than 100,000 patients have needed hospital care for Covid-19 in England since February.
However, Dr. Hare has warned that many more people may need hospital care in the future.
He said: “My concern with Covid-19 is because so much of the population has been infected.
“I’m worried about the sheer volume of patients that we’re going to have to treat, simply because so many more people have had the virus.”
While lung fibrosis can’t be cured, drugs can slow down its progression – but only if it’s detected early enough.
Speaking to the BBC, Professor Gisli Jenkins, who is running assessment clinics for Covid-19 patients, said: “We now need to understand how big the problem is and when we should intervene with treatment.
“My real concern is that never before in our lifetime have so many people been subjected to the same lung injury at the same time.”