COVID-19: Interim Guidance on Rehabilitation in the Hospital and Post-Hospital Phase from a European Respiratory Society and American Thoracic Society-coordinated International Task Force

Eur Respir J. 2020 Aug 13;56(6):2002197. doi: 10.1183/13993003.02197-2020. Online ahead of print.


Background: Patients with COVID-19 or post-COVID-19 will most probably have a need for rehabilitation during and directly after the hospitalisation. Data on safety and efficacy are lacking. Healthcare professionals cannot wait for published randomised controlled trials before they can start these rehabilitative interventions in daily clinical practice, as the number of post-COVID-19 patients increases rapidly. The Convergence of Opinion on Recommendations and Evidence process was used to make interim recommendation for the rehabilitation in the hospital and post-hospital phase in COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 patients, respectively.

Methods: 93 experts were asked to fill out 13 multiple choice questions. Agreement of directionality was tabulated for each question. At least 70% agreement on directionality was necessary to make consensus suggestions.

Results: 76 experts (82%) reached consensus on all questions based upon indirect evidence and clinical experience on the need for early rehabilitation during the hospital admission, the screening for treatable traits with rehabilitation in all patients at discharge and 6-8 weeks after discharge, and around the content of rehabilitation for these patients. It advocates for assessment of oxygen needs at discharge and more comprehensive assessment of rehabilitation needs including physical as well as mental aspects 6-8 weeks after discharge. Based on the deficits identified multidisciplinary rehabilitation should be offered with attention for skeletal muscle and functional as well as mental restoration.

Conclusions: This multinational task force recommends early, bedside rehabilitation for patients affected by severe COVID-19. The model of pulmonary rehabilitation may suit as a framework, particularly in a subset of patients with long term respiratory consequences.