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East Tennessee doctor says patients can see long-term effects from COVID-19 on lungs

Dr. Felix Chaltry said people hospitalized by the coronavirus could see long-term effects, making activities like going for a walk in the park difficult.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn — How big of a toll can COVID take on the lungs? One East Tennessee doctor, Dr. Chaltry, said it could be pretty bad.

"This is a normal CT open airways nice and open, your heart, you got your ribs are on the outside here," said Dr. Felix Chaltry, an internal medicine doctor at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. "Even people that come in for another reason after they've had COVID-19, we'll see a lot scarring."

Spanish Version: Doctor en área Este de TN indica que pacientes pueden experimentar efectos a largo plazo en los pulmones a raíz del COVID-19

Dr. Chaltry said that in some cases it can be worse than smoker's lung. He said that in the lungs of people hospitalized with COVID-19, there are fewer airways and a lot of scarring. He said that debris can collect in people's lungs, and that fluid may gather at the bottom. That fluid can also go throughout the lungs, he said.

He said that COVID-19 can leave severe, long-term effects on people's lungs.

Chaltry said that he is afraid that people may experience the long-term effects of COVID-19 for the rest of their lives.

"The worry is that this could affect them long-term, possibly leading to changes in the lungs. This means that down the road, they might not be able to go for a walk in the park go hike in the Smokies that sort of thing" said Chaltry.

The doctor says those most at risk for this are people who have been hospitalized with the coronavirus. Those with milder or asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 are less likely to have significant damage to their lungs, and may not see many severe, long-term effects.