Comprehensive health assessment three months after recovery from acute COVID-19

Clin Infect Dis. 2020 Nov 21;ciaa1750. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciaa1750. Online ahead of print.


Background: Long-term health sequelae of COVID-19 may be multiple but have thus far not been systematically studied.

Methods: All patients discharged after COVID-19 from the Radboud university medical centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands, were consecutively invited to a multidisciplinary outpatient facility. Also, non-admitted patients with mild disease but with symptoms persisting >6 weeks could be referred by general practitioners. Patients underwent a standardized assessment including measurements of lung function, chest CT/X-ray, 6-minute walking test, body composition, and questionnaires on mental, cognitive, health status and quality of life (QoL).

Results: 124 patients (age 59±14 years, 60% male) were included; 27 with mild, 51 with moderate, 26 with severe and 20 with critical disease. Lung diffusion capacity was below lower limit of normal in 42% of discharged patients. Ninety-nine percent of discharged patients had reduced ground-glass opacification on repeat CT imaging, and normal chest X-rays were found in 93% of patients with mild diseases. Residual pulmonary parenchymal abnormalities were present in 91% of discharged patients, and correlated with reduced lung diffusion capacity. Twenty-two percent had low exercise capacity, 19% low fat-free mass index, and problems in mental and/or cognitive function were found in 36% of the patients. Health status was generally poor, particularly in the domains functional impairment (64%), fatigue (69%) and QoL (72%).

Conclusions: This comprehensive health assessment revealed severe problems in several health domains in a substantial number of ex-COVID-19 patients. Longer follow-up studies are warranted to elucidate natural trajectories and to find predictors of complicated long-term trajectories of recovery.