6-Month Effects of COVID-19 in Discharged Patients: The Lancet 

What are the long-term effects of COVID-19? The study explains the need for post-discharge care for COVID patients.

2 min read
Medics arrive to take samples of suspected COVID-19 patients for lab tests at a government hospital in New Delhi. Image used for representational purposes.

It’s been more than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, and yet the long-term effects of the virus are still largely unknown.

A new study by The Lancet aiming to understand the long-term health consequences of patients with COVID-19 found that six months after the infection, discharged patients were “troubled with fatigue or muscle weakness, sleep difficulties, and anxiety or depression.”

The study added:

“Patients who were more severely ill during their hospital stay had more severe impaired pulmonary diffusion capacities and abnormal chest imaging manifestations, and are the main target population for intervention of long-term recovery.” 
The Lancet

What Was the Study About?

The study was conducted on 1,733 patients with confirmed COVID-19 who had been discharged from Jin Yin-tan Hospital in Wuhan, China, between 7 January 2020 and 29 May 2020. This excluded patients with psychotic disorders and dementia or ones who were rendered immobile due to diseases such as stroke or pulmonary embolism.

The study included asking the patients many questionnaires to evaluate symptoms, quality of life, physical examinations they underwent, a 6-min walking test, and blood tests.

The sample’s median age was 57 years and 897 (52 percent) were men.

What Were the Most Common Symptoms?

  • Fatigue or muscle weakness (63 percent, 1,038 of 1,655) and sleep difficulties (26 percent, 437 of 1,655)
  • Then came anxiety or depression reported among 23 percent (367 of 1617) patients.
“We found that fatigue or muscle weakness, sleep difficulties, and anxiety or depression were common, even at six months after symptom onset.”
The Lancet

As earlier studies have indicated, the severity of the initial infection determined the severity of long-term issues – for example, in this study as well, patients who were severely ill while hospitalised had more severe impaired pulmonary diffusion capacities and abnormal chest imaging manifestations. This is also consistent with data from previous SARS follow-up studies, as this paper in JAMA demonstrates.

The study also looked at risk factors and found that the main target for intervention of long-term recovery were those who were severely infected with COVID-19 initially.

One of the worrying results revealed in the study is that a “considerable proportion (22–56 percent across different severity scales) of participants had a pulmonary diffusion abnormality six months after symptom onset.”

As per The Lancet, this is the largest cohort study with the longest follow-up duration assessing the health consequences of adult patients discharged from the hospital post-COVID-19 infections.

The results of this study support the need for post-COVID care, especially in those patients who suffered from severe infections.

(The article was first published in FIT and has been republished with permission.)

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