SARS: prognosis, outcome and sequelae

Respirology. 2003 Nov;8 Suppl(Suppl 1):S36-40. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1843.2003.00522.x.


Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is associated with considerable morbidity and mortality in the acute phase. Worldwide case fatality rate is 11% (range 7 to 27%) for the most severely affected regions. Several adverse prognostic factors have been identified, including advanced age, presence of comorbidity, higher lactose dehydrogenase levels and initial neutrophil count, but the impact of viral and other host factors on outcome is unknown. Published data on sequelae of SARS are limited. Clinical follow-up of patients who recovered from SARS has demonstrated radiological, functional and psychological abnormalities of varying degrees. In the early rehabilitation phase, many complained of limitations in physical function from general weakness and/or shortness of breath. In a small series of subjects who underwent CT scan of the chest, over half showed some patchy changes consistent with pulmonary fibrosis. Lung function testing at 6-8 weeks after hospital discharge showed mild or moderate restrictive pattern consistent with muscle weakness in 6-20% of subjects. Mild decrease in carbon monoxide diffusing capacity was detected in a minority of subjects. Preliminary evidence suggests that these lung function abnormalities will improve over time. Psychobehavioural problems of anxiety and/or depression were not uncommon in the early recovery phase, and improved over time in the majority of patients. Avascular necrosis of the hip has been reported as another complication. The long-term sequelae of SARS are still largely unknown. It is important to follow up these patients to detect and appropriately manage any persistent or emerging long-term sequelae in the physical, psychological and social domains.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / virology
  • Prognosis
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome* / complications
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome* / mortality
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome* / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome