Don’t Delay Care for Lung Conditions or Concerns During COVID-19 Pandemic

Western Connecticut Health Network
Thoracic surgeon stresses the importance of continuing screenings and care for lung disease, and offers an innovative approach to treat post-COVID-19 trachea problems

Summary:

  • Individuals with lung conditions or concerns should continue to seek the care they need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Individuals who are living with lung disease are at a higher risk of developing complications related to COVID-19 and should take precautions to protect themselves.
  • Nuvance Health offers spray cryotherapy, an innovative treatment for trachea complications that can occur after intubation due to COVID-19.

Are you or a loved one at risk for developing lung disease, experiencing unusual respiratory symptoms, or currently living with a lung condition? If so, you may be wondering if you should seek care, and how to safely access screenings or treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why you shouldn’t delay care

It’s important not to delay routine screenings or care for lung conditions or concerns. Learn about the safety precautions at your hospital or doctor’s office so you are well informed and prepared for your next visit. For example, Nuvance Health has implemented the following safety precautions to lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission in its hospitals and medical practices:

  • Screening protocols: Patients and staff are screened for risk factors of COVID-19.
  • Check-in/out processes: To limit the number of people in Nuvance Health facilities and ensure proper social distancing, patients may be asked to wait in their vehicles until their appointment begins, or in waiting areas with fewer chairs set more than 6 feet apart. Pre-registration and follow-up appointments will be done by phone.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE): Face masks are worn by patients, approved visitors, and staff. Clinical staff may also wear additional PPE including face shields, head coverings, gloves, or surgical gowns.
  • Infection prevention: Stringent cleaning and disinfecting of facilities take place throughout the day with a deep clean daily.

Precautions for individuals at high-risk of complications from COVID-19

People with lung disease — such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer — may be at a higher risk of respiratory complications caused by COVID-19.

Dr. Faiz Bhora, System Chief of Thoracic Surgery and Thoracic Oncology at Nuvance Health said that anyone in a high-risk group should continue to take precautions to protect themselves from COVID-19 and remain extra vigilant, even as communities reopen.

Dr. Faiz Bhora, Chief of Thoracic Surgery, Nuvance Health
Dr. Faiz Bhora
System Chief of Thoracic Surgery and Thoracic Oncology at Nuvance Health 

“Adhere strictly to wearing a mask for yourself and others around you, and try to maintain social distancing as much as possible,” said Dr. Bhora. “It’s also important to avoid places with large crowds and promptly seek care if you’re experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, especially shortness of breath or fever.”

According to Dr. Bhora, it’s also critical that people with lung disease seek medical attention if they begin to experience any new or unusual symptoms.

“If you have an existing condition, be sure to schedule follow-up care as recommended by your doctor and get medical attention if your condition worsens,” said Dr. Bhora. 

Screenings for lung cancer

It’s important to continue routine screenings for lung cancer if your doctor recommends them because you’re at increased risk of developing the disease. Screenings may help to detect lung cancer at an earlier, more curable stage.

Related article: Advances in Lung Cancer Care Lead to a Decrease in Overall Cancer Death Rate

Treatment for lung cancer

Cancer patients undergoing treatment are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, which is why Nuvance Health continues to take precautions. In addition to the safety precautions at all Nuvance Health hospitals and medical practices, cancer care safeguards include:

  • Multidisciplinary oncology teams follow the latest care guidelines from national cancer associations and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • When possible, oncologists see patients via telemedicine to reduce the number of in-person visits for those who don’t require a physical exam.
  • Patients who need infusion chemotherapy or radiation oncology will like to know that fewer appointments are scheduled at a time to limit the number of patients in the cancer centers.
  • Exam rooms and treatment areas are sanitized after each patient, and the cancer centers are cleaned at least hourly throughout the day, with a deep clean daily.
  • Patients who meet criteria need to have a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of their procedure or surgery. There are designated operating rooms and recovery units for patients who don’t have COVID-19. Most patients only stay in the hospital two to three days after surgery for lung cancer.

“If folks have lung cancer and need surgery, then they certainly should not be putting it off if their surgeon advises them to have surgery. The risks of delaying surgery may outweigh the benefits of waiting longer,” said Dr. Bhora.

Advanced treatment options after COVID-19 infection

Individuals who experience serious complications related to COVID-19 and require breathing support with a mechanical ventilator can sometimes develop problems with their trachea (commonly known as the windpipe) after recovery.

“Some COVID-19 patients are being intubated for weeks at a time, so we are now seeing an increase in the number of conditions associated with the trachea — such as narrowing, which is called stenosis, and an infection called tracheitis,” said Dr. Bhora.

Nuvance Health offers spray cryotherapy. This is an innovative treatment to open airways that have become narrowed due to scar tissue, which can develop after airway trauma caused by intubation.

Spray cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and rejuvenate abnormal tissue in the trachea, resulting in a more open airway. Dr. Bhora published a paper about spray cryotherapy in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. He’s also researching 3D printed tracheas, which could lead to the development of additional treatment options.

“Individuals who needed mechanical ventilation to survive COVID-19 fought to keep their life. Now, for those who experienced trachea problems, we can help them maintain their quality of life by repairing their airway with innovative treatment options,” said Dr. Bhora.

The bottom line: If you or a loved one has a lung condition or concern, please don’t delay screenings or care. At Nuvance Health, protocols are in place to help reduce the risk of possible spread of COVID-19.

To learn more about lung cancer screening and treatment at Nuvance Health, visit our websites:
Connecticut Lung Cancer Program | New York Lung Cancer Program

About Dr. Faiz Bhora

Dr. Faiz Bhora is the System Chief of Thoracic Surgery and Thoracic Oncology, and Associate Program Director of the General Surgery Residency program at Nuvance Health. Dr. Bhora specializes in minimally invasive approaches to thoracic diseases, including the use of VATS and robotic techniques to perform minimally invasive operations. He is also nationally known for performing complex endoscopic airway operations. Dr. Bhora’s research focuses on regenerative medicine, including 3D printing of the trachea, and machine learning in robotic surgery, which is the use of algorithms and statistical models in computer systems to perform specific tasks. 

CONTACT
Amy Forni, Manager, Public Relations
(203) 739 7478 | Amy.Forni@nuvancehealth.org