- COVID-19 is a recent viral outbreak that has rapidly spread to multiple countries in the world.
- However, there is limited information about the complications related to the infection.
- This article highlights the case of 38-year-old woman who treated COVID-19 with OTC medications and developed a late onset complication of pneumothorax.
A 38-year-old female patient from the Netherlands presented to the emergency with complaints of shortness of breath and sharp pain in her lungs. According to the patient, the symptom were sudden onset and got worse with time. She further revealed that she had developed symptoms of COVID-19 five weeks earlier, including, fever and muscle aches.
Her test results came back positive for COVID-19.
The patient self-medicated with acetaminophen and an inhaler. Although she had recovered from her previous symptoms, she started experiencing new symptoms after her initial recovery period. Doctors advised an X-ray to evaluate the cause of her symptoms. While the infection presented as seemingly mild, X-ray findings showed that both her lungs had collapsed.
The X-ray was consistent with “bilateral pneumothorax”.
Pneumothorax occurs when air leaks between the lungs and chest wall. This puts pressure on the lungs and prevents it from expanding properly, causing it to collapse. Causes of pneumothorax include trauma to the chest or an underlying medical condition, such as, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In addition, patients on ventilators are also at an increased risk of pneumothorax because of the device over-inflating the lungs.
However, doctors did not put this patient on a ventilator or admitted her to the hospital before her lungs collapsed, making it quite an unusual case. Most cases of pneumothorax that have been reported were in patients who had been put on a ventilator. Therefore, authors of this study warned that pneumothorax can present as a “delayed COVID-19 related complication.” Doctors, however, could not identify the cause of this woman’s spontaneous lung collapse. Although since the woman did not have any other risk factors, COVID-19 could have played a role.
The patient’s treatment plan included inserting a needle-like instrument to remove excess air from around her right lung, only. Whereas the left lung healed on its own because only a small part of it had collapsed. Four weeks later, both her lungs were back to their normal size with no other complications.
Delayed Spontaneous Bilateral Pneumothorax in a Previously Healthy Non-ventilated COVID-19 Patient. https://www.jem-journal.com/article/S0736-4679(21)00017-2/fulltext