Systematic rapid "living" review on rehabilitation needs due to COVID-19: update to March 31st, 2020

Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2020 Jun;56(3):347-353. doi: 10.23736/S1973-9087.20.06329-7. Epub 2020 Apr 22.


Introduction: The outbreak of COVID-19 epidemics has challenged the provision of health care worldwide, highlighting the main flaws of some national health systems with respect to their capacity to cope with the needs of frail subjects. People experiencing disability due to COVID-19 express specific rehabilitation needs that deserve a systematic evidence-based approach. The aim of this article is to provide the rehabilitation community with updates on the latest scientific literature on rehabilitation needs due to COVID-19. The first rapid "living" review will present the results of a systematic search performed up to March 31st, 2020.

Evidence acquisition: A systematic search in PubMed, Pedro, and Google Scholar was performed using the search terms: "COVID-19," "Coronavirus," "severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2," "rehabilitation," "physical therapy modalities," "exercise," "occupational therapy," and "late complications." Papers published up to March 31st, 2020, in English, were included.

Evidence synthesis: Out of the 2758 articles retrieved, nine were included in the present review. Four of them are "calls for action", three provide recommendations about rehabilitation interventions in the acute phase, two address the needs of people quarantined at home or with restricted mobility due to the lockdown, and one provides a Core Outcome Set to be used in clinical trials to test the efficacy of health strategies in managing COVID-19 patients.

Conclusions: All selected papers were based on previous literature and not on the current COVID-19 pandemic. Main messages included: 1) early rehabilitation should be granted to inpatients with COVID-19; 2) people with restricted mobility due to quarantine or lockdown should receive exercise programs to reduce the risk of frailty, sarcopenia, cognitive decline and depression; 3) telerehabilitation may represent the first option for people at home. Further updates are warranted in order to characterize the emerging disability in COVID-19 survivors and the adverse effects on the health of chronically disabled people.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / rehabilitation*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / complications
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / rehabilitation*
  • Rehabilitation*
  • SARS-CoV-2