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Viral infections

Respiratory impairment persists for weeks post-discharge in hospitalised COVID-19 patients

A study showed persistent pulmonary impairment weeks after recovery from COVID-19, although a moderate improvement was detectable at 12 weeks.

Open access article

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this article free to access in order to help healthcare professionals stay informed about an issue of national importance.

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The study found that 12 weeks after hospitalisation with COVID-19, 15% of patients still had a cough

Many patients who contract COVID-19 have detectable lung dysfunction 12 weeks after hospital discharge, preliminary results presented at the 2020 European Respiratory Society International Congress have suggested (7 September 2020)[1].

Researchers from Austria followed up 86 patients who had been hospitalised with COVID-19 for an average of 13 days, and tracked their symptoms and respiratory function at 6 and 12 weeks post-discharge.

After six weeks, 47% of patients were still experiencing dyspnoea and 15% still had a cough. At 12 weeks, these symptoms persisted in 39% and 15% of patients, respectively.

Some patients had persistent lung impairment at six weeks: 23% had a forced expiratory volume in 1 second value that was lower than 80% of normal, and 28% had a forced vital capacity value that was lower than 80% of normal.

At 12 weeks, these figures had decreased to 21% and 19%, respectively. There were also pathological CT scan findings in 88% of patients at week 6 and in 56% at week 12.

The researchers said that although the results demonstrated persistent pulmonary impairment weeks after recovery, a moderate improvement was detectable at 12 weeks.

“The findings from this study show the importance of implementing structured follow-up care for patients with severe COVID-19 infection,” said Sabina Sahanic, a PhD student in the haematological department at the University Clinic of Internal Medicine in Innsbruck, Austria, and lead author of the study.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20208438

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