Current knowledge of the pulmonary pathology of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is based largely on postmortem studies. In most, the interval between disease onset and death is relatively short (<1 month). Information regarding lung pathology in patients who survive for longer periods is scant. We describe the pathology in three patients with severe COVID-19 who underwent antemortem examination of lung tissue at least 8 weeks after initial diagnosis.
We conducted a retrospective case series.
The first patient developed acute respiratory failure and was started on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) on day 21, with subsequent hemothorax. Debridement (day 38) showed extensive lung infarction with diffuse alveolar damage and Candida overgrowth. The second patient developed acute respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation that did not improve despite ECMO. Surgical lung biopsy on day 74 showed diffuse interstitial fibrosis with focal microscopic honeycomb change. The third patient also required ECMO and underwent bilateral lung transplantation on day 126. The explanted lungs showed diffuse interstitial fibrosis with focal microscopic honeycomb change.
This series provides histologic confirmation that complications of COVID-19 after 8 weeks to 4 months of severe disease include lung infarction and diffuse interstitial fibrosis.