Residual lung damage following ARDS in COVID-19 ICU survivors

Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 2022 Feb;66(2):223-231. doi: 10.1111/aas.13996. Epub 2021 Nov 17.


Background: Coronavirus disease 2019 acute respiratory distress syndrome (COVID-19 ARDS) is a disease that often requires invasive ventilation. Little is known about COVID-19 ARDS sequelae. We assessed the mid-term lung status of COVID-19 survivors and investigated factors associated with pulmonary sequelae.

Methods: All adult COVID-19 patients admitted to the intensive care unit from 25th February to 27th April 2020 were included. Lung function was evaluated through chest CT scan and pulmonary function tests (PFT). Logistic regression was used to identify predictors of persisting lung alterations.

Results: Forty-nine patients (75%) completed lung assessment. Chest CT scan was performed after a median (interquartile range) time of 97 (89-105) days, whilst PFT after 142 (133-160) days. The median age was 58 (52-65) years and most patients were male (90%). The median duration of mechanical ventilation was 11 (6-16) days. Median tidal volume/ideal body weight (TV/IBW) was 6.8 (5.71-7.67) ml/Kg. 59% and 63% of patients showed radiological and functional lung sequelae, respectively. The diffusion capacity of carbon monoxide (DLCO ) was reduced by 59%, with a median per cent of predicted DLCO of 72.1 (57.9-93.9) %. Mean TV/IBW during invasive ventilation emerged as an independent predictor of persistent CT scan abnormalities, whilst the duration of mechanical ventilation was an independent predictor of both CT and PFT abnormalities. The extension of lung involvement at hospital admission (evaluated through Radiographic Assessment of Lung Edema, RALE score) independently predicted the risk of persistent alterations in PFTs.

Conclusions: Both the extent of lung parenchymal involvement and mechanical ventilation protocols predict morphological and functional lung abnormalities months after COVID-19.

Keywords: COVID-19; acute respiratory distress syndrome; chest CT scan; critically ill patients; follow-up; intensive care; pulmonary fibrosis; pulmonary function tests.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome* / diagnostic imaging
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome* / etiology
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Survivors