Background: Long-term effects of COVID-19, also called Long COVID, affect more than 10% of patients. The most severe cases (i.e. those requiring hospitalization) present a higher frequency of sequelae, but detailed information on these effects is still lacking. The objective of this study is to identify and quantify the frequency and outcomes associated with the presence of sequelae or persistent symptomatology (SPS) during the 6 months after discharge for COVID-19.
Methods: Retrospective observational 6-month follow-up study conducted in four hospitals of Spain. A cohort of all 969 patients who were hospitalized with PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 from March 1 to April 15, 2020, was included. We collected all the SPS during the 6 months after discharge reported by patients during follow-up from primary care records. Cluster analyses were performed to validate the measures. The main outcome measures were return to the Emergency Services, hospital readmission and post-discharge death. Surviving patients' outcomes were collected through clinical histories and primary care reports. Multiple logistic regression models were applied.
Results: The 797 (82.2%) patients who survived constituted the sample followed, while the rest died from COVID-19. The mean age was 63.0 years, 53.7% of them were men and 509 (63.9%) reported some sequelae during the first 6 months after discharge. These sequelae were very diverse, but the most frequent were respiratory (42.0%), systemic (36.1%), neurological (20.8%), mental health (12.2%) and infectious (7.9%) SPS, with some differences by sex. Women presented higher frequencies of headache and mental health SPS, among others. A total of 160 (20.1%) patients returned to the Emergency Services, 35 (4.4%) required hospital readmission and 8 (1.0%) died during follow-up. The main factors independently associated with the return to Emergency Services were persistent fever, dermatological SPS, arrythmia or palpitations, thoracic pain and pneumonia.
Conclusions: COVID-19 cases requiring hospitalization during the first wave of the pandemic developed a significant range of mid- to long-term SPS. A detailed list of symptoms and outcomes is provided in this multicentre study. Identification of possible factors associated with these SPS could be useful to optimize preventive follow-up strategies in primary care for the coming months of the pandemic.
Keywords: COVID-19; Follow-up; Long COVID; Persistent symptoms; Post-discharge; Primary care; Sequelae.