Introduction The ‘Long COVID’ syndrome, where symptoms persist beyond the acute illness with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19), is anecdotally described. However, a comprehensive report of clinical, radiological, functional and psychological recovery from COVID-19 is currently lacking. We present a detailed radiological, patient-reported and physiological characterisation of patients attending face-to-face assessment following hospitalisation with COVID-19 pneumonia.
Methods Prospective single-centre observational cohort study at an inner-city South London teaching hospital. All patients admitted with severe COVID-19 pneumonia (admission duration ≥48 hours, oxygen requirement ≥40% or critical care admission) were invited to attend Post-COVID Clinic 6–8 weeks following hospital discharge. Primary outcome: radiological resolution of COVID-19 pneumonitis. Secondary outcomes: demographics and anthropometrics, inpatient clinical course, patient-reported and physiological outcomes at follow-up (symptoms, functional disability, mental health screening, 4-metre gait speed (4MGS), 1-minute sit-to-stand (STS) test).
Results 119 consecutive patients attended clinic between 3rd June and 2nd July 2020, at median (IQR) 61 (51–67) days post discharge. Baseline characteristics are presented in table 1. Despite apparent radiographic resolution of lung infiltrates in the majority (RALE score <5 in 87% of patients), patients commonly reported persistent fatigue (78/115 (67.8%;95%CI 60.0–76.5)), sleep disturbance (65/115 (56.5;47.3–66.1)) and breathlessness (37/115 (32.2;25.2–40.0)). mMRC breathlessness score was above pre-COVID baseline in 55/115 (46.2;37.8–54.6). Burdensome cough was less common (8/115 (7.0; 3.5–10.4)). 56 thoracic computed tomography scans were performed, of which 75% demonstrated COVID-related interstitial lung disease and/or airways disease. Significant depression (PHQ-9 ≥9) or anxiety (GAD-7 ≥9) were present in 20/111 (18.0;11.7–23.4) and 25/113 (22.1;15.0–29.8), respectively. The Trauma Screening Questionnaire was positive (≥6) in 28/113 (24.8;18.1–31.9). Post-COVID functional scale was ≥2 in 47/115 (40.9;33.0–47.8). 4MGS was <0.8 m/s in 44/115 (38.3;29.6–46.1), 39/109 (34.5;26.5–41.6) desaturated by ≥4% during STS, 25/32 (78.1;62.5–93.1) who desaturated also had abnormal CT findings.
Conclusions Persistent symptoms, functional limitation and adverse mental health outcomes are common 8 weeks after severe COVID-19 pneumonia. Follow-up chest radiograph is a poor marker of recovery. Physiological testing to identify oxygen desaturation is useful for triaging patients for further investigation. Face-to-face or virtual clinical assessments are recommended to facilitate early recognition and management of post-COVID sequelae in this vulnerable cohort.
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.