Updated: August 28, 2021 7:32:13 am
Most symptoms of Covid-19 in hospitalised patients are resolved within 12 months, however, around one half still experience at least one persistent symptom, a study of 1,276 patients from Wuhan, China, published in The Lancet, has found.
Around one in three patients still experience shortness of breath, while lung impairments persisted in some patients, especially those who had experienced the most severe illness with Covid-19. Overall, Covid-19 survivors were less healthy than people from the wider community that had not been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Professor Bin Cao from National Center for Respiratory Medicine, China-Japan Friendship Hospital, China, said: “Our study is the largest to date to assess the health outcomes of hospitalised Covid-19 survivors after 12 months of becoming ill. While most had made a good recovery, health problems persisted in some patients, especially those who had been critically ill during their hospital stay. Our findings suggest that recovery for some patients will take longer than one year, and this should be taken into account when planning delivery of healthcare services post-pandemic.”
Long-term effects of Covid-19 have been widely reported and are an increasing concern. A previous study (by the same researchers) reporting outcomes from 1,733 hospitalised Covid-19 survivors after six months found that around three-quarters of patients had persistent health problems. The new study includes 1,276 patients from the same cohort to assess their health status after 12 months.
Patients had been discharged from Jin Yin-tan Hospital in Wuhan, China, between January 7 and May 29, 2020. They underwent detailed health checks at six and 12 months (taken from the date they first experienced symptoms of Covid-19) to assess any ongoing symptoms and their health-related quality of life. These included face-to-face questionnaires, physical examinations, lab tests and a six-minute walking test to gauge patients’ endurance levels.
The average age of patients included in the study was 57 years. Patient outcomes were tracked for an average of 185 days and 349 days.
Many symptoms resolved over time, regardless of the severity of initial Covid-19 disease. The proportion of patients still experiencing at least one symptom after one year fell from 68 per cent at six months to 49 per cent at 12 months. This decrease was observed regardless of the severity of Covid-19 the patients had experienced when hospitalised.
Fatigue or muscle weakness was the most commonly reported symptom with around half of patients experiencing this at six months. Almost one third of patients reported experiencing shortness of breath at 12 months, which was slightly higher than at six months. This was more prevalent in patients who had been the most severely ill and had been on a ventilator during their time in hospital compared to those who had not required oxygen treatment.
Compared to men, women were 1.4 times more likely to report fatigue or muscle weakness, twice as likely to report anxiety or depression, and almost three times as likely to have lung diffusion impairment after 12 months. People who had been treated with corticosteroids during the acute phase of their illness with Covid-19 were 1.5 times as likely to experience fatigue or muscle weakness after 12 months, compared to those who had not been treated with corticosteroids during their illness. The authors say these findings will be important to follow up in future research to better understand why Covid-19 symptoms persist in some people.
A Lancet editorial published at the same time says: “As the pandemic continues, the need to understand and respond to long Covid is increasingly pressing. Symptoms such as persistent fatigue, breathlessness, brain fog, and depression could debilitate many millions of people globally.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.