What are the long-term symptoms and complications of COVID-19: a protocol for a living systematic review

F1000Res. 2020 Dec 14;9:1455. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.27284.2. eCollection 2020.


Although the majority of people with Covid-19 will experience mild to moderate symptoms and will recover fully, there is now increasing evidence that a significant proportion will experience persistent symptoms for months after the acute phase of the illness. These symptoms include, among others, fatigue, problems breathing, lack of smell and taste, headaches, and depression and anxiety. It is also clear the virus has lasting fluctuating multiorgan sequelae, including affecting not only the respiratory system but also the heart, liver, and nervous system. We present a protocol for a living systematic review that aims to synthesize the evidence on the prevalence and characteristics of post-acute COVID-19. The living systematic review will be updated regularly, approximately every 6 months, as new evidence emerges. We will include studies that follow up at least 100 people with Covid-19 at 12 or more weeks post Covid-19 onset, with no restrictions regarding country, setting, or language. We will use descriptive statistics and, for outcomes reported in two or more studies, we will use meta-analyses to estimate prevalence with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) using the exact method. Heterogeneity between estimates will be assessed using the I2 statistic. Our findings will also be presented as infographics to facilitate transcription to lay audiences. Ultimately, we aim to support the work of policy makers, practitioners, and patients when planning rehabilitation for those recovering from Covid-19. The protocol has been registered with PROSPERO ( CRD42020211131, 25/09/2020).

Keywords: COVID-19; Living systematic review; lasting effects; long covid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety
  • COVID-19*
  • Disease Progression
  • Heart
  • Humans
  • SARS-CoV-2

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the Department for International Development and Wellcome [215091] and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation [OPP1209135].