Objectives: We performed a comprehensive health assessment in mechanically ventilated coronavirus disease 2019 survivors to assess the impact of respiratory and skeletal muscle injury sustained during ICU stay on physical performance at 3 months following hospital discharge.
Design: Preregistered prospective observational cohort study.
Setting: University hospital ICU.
Patients: All mechanically ventilated coronavirus disease 2019 patients admitted to our ICU during the first European pandemic wave.
Measurements and main results: At 3 months after hospital discharge, 46 survivors underwent a comprehensive physical assessment (6-min walking distance, Medical Research Council sum score and handgrip strength), a full pulmonary function test, and a chest CT scan which was used to analyze skeletal muscle architecture. In addition, patient-reported outcomes measures were collected. Physical performance assessed by 6-minute walking distance was below 80% of predicted in 48% of patients. Patients with impaired physical performance had more muscle weakness (Medical Research Council sum score 53 [51-56] vs 59 [56-60]; p < 0.001), lower lung diffusing capacity (54% [44-66%] vs 68% of predicted [61-72% of predicted]; p = 0.002), and higher intermuscular adipose tissue area (p = 0.037). Reduced lung diffusing capacity and increased intermuscular adipose tissue were independently associated with physical performance.
Conclusions: Physical disability is common at 3 months in severe coronavirus disease 2019 survivors. Lung diffusing capacity and intermuscular adipose tissue assessed on CT were independently associated with walking distance, suggesting a key role for pulmonary function and muscle quality in functional disability.
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