Four-Month Clinical Status of a Cohort of Patients After Hospitalization for COVID-19

JAMA. 2021 Apr 20;325(15):1525-1534. doi: 10.1001/jama.2021.3331.


Importance: Little is known about long-term sequelae of COVID-19.

Objective: To describe the consequences at 4 months in patients hospitalized for COVID-19.

Design, setting, and participants: In a prospective uncontrolled cohort study, survivors of COVID-19 who had been hospitalized in a university hospital in France between March 1 and May 29, 2020, underwent a telephone assessment 4 months after discharge, between July 15 and September 18, 2020. Patients with relevant symptoms and all patients hospitalized in an intensive care unit (ICU) were invited for further assessment at an ambulatory care visit.

Exposures: Survival of hospitalization for COVID-19.

Main outcomes and measures: Respiratory, cognitive, and functional symptoms were assessed by telephone with the Q3PC cognitive screening questionnaire and a checklist of symptoms. At the ambulatory care visit, patients underwent pulmonary function tests, lung computed tomographic scan, psychometric and cognitive tests (including the 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey and 20-item Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory), and, for patients who had been hospitalized in the ICU or reported ongoing symptoms, echocardiography.

Results: Among 834 eligible patients, 478 were evaluated by telephone (mean age, 61 years [SD, 16 years]; 201 men, 277 women). During the telephone interview, 244 patients (51%) declared at least 1 symptom that did not exist before COVID-19: fatigue in 31%, cognitive symptoms in 21%, and new-onset dyspnea in 16%. There was further evaluation in 177 patients (37%), including 97 of 142 former ICU patients. The median 20-item Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory score (n = 130) was 4.5 (interquartile range, 3.0-5.0) for reduced motivation and 3.7 (interquartile range, 3.0-4.5) for mental fatigue (possible range, 1 [best] to 5 [worst]). The median 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey score (n = 145) was 25 (interquartile range, 25.0-75.0) for the subscale "role limited owing to physical problems" (possible range, 0 [best] to 100 [worst]). Computed tomographic lung-scan abnormalities were found in 108 of 171 patients (63%), mainly subtle ground-glass opacities. Fibrotic lesions were observed in 33 of 171 patients (19%), involving less than 25% of parenchyma in all but 1 patient. Fibrotic lesions were observed in 19 of 49 survivors (39%) with acute respiratory distress syndrome. Among 94 former ICU patients, anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic symptoms were observed in 23%, 18%, and 7%, respectively. The left ventricular ejection fraction was less than 50% in 8 of 83 ICU patients (10%). New-onset chronic kidney disease was observed in 2 ICU patients. Serology was positive in 172 of 177 outpatients (97%).

Conclusions and relevance: Four months after hospitalization for COVID-19, a cohort of patients frequently reported symptoms not previously present, and lung-scan abnormalities were common among those who were tested. These findings are limited by the absence of a control group and of pre-COVID assessments in this cohort. Further research is needed to understand longer-term outcomes and whether these findings reflect associations with the disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • COVID-19 / complications*
  • COVID-19 / psychology
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression / etiology
  • Dyspnea / etiology
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung / pathology*
  • Lung Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung Diseases / etiology*
  • Lung Diseases / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed