Prognosis and antibody profiles in survivors of critical illness from COVID-19: a prospective multicentre cohort study

Br J Anaesth. 2022 Mar;128(3):491-500. doi: 10.1016/j.bja.2021.11.024. Epub 2021 Nov 26.


Background: There is a need to assess the long-term outcomes of survivors of critical illness from COVID-19.

Methods: Ninety-two survivors of critical illness from COVID-19 from four hospitals in Hubei Province, China participated in this prospective cohort study. Multiple characteristics, including lung function (lung volumes, diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide, chest computed tomography scores, and walking capacity); immune status (SARS-CoV-2-neutralising antibody and all subtypes of immunoglobulin (Ig) G against SARS-CoV-2, immune cells in response to ex vivo antigen peptide stimuli, and lymphocyte count and its subtypes); liver, coagulation, and kidney functions; quality of life; cognitive function; and mental status, were assessed after 3, 6, and 12 months of follow-up.

Results: Amongst the 92 enrolled survivors, 72 (78%) patients required mechanical ventilation. At 12 months, the predicted percentage diffusing capacity of lung for carbon monoxide was 82% (inter-quartile range [IQR]: 76-97%) with a residual volume of 77 (64-88)%. Other lung function parameters and the 6-min walk test improved gradually over time and were almost back to normal by 12 months. The titres of IgG and neutralising antibody to COVID-19 remained high at 12 months compared with those of controls who were not infected with COVID-19, although IgG titres decreased significantly from 34.0 (IQR: 23.8-74.3) to 15.0 (5.8-24.3) AU ml-1 (P<0.001), whereas neutralising antibodies decreased from 29.99 (IQR: 19.43-53.93) AU ml-1 at 6 months to 19.75 (13.1-29.8) AU ml-1 (P<0.001) at 12 months. In general, liver, kidney, physical, and mental functions also improved over time.

Conclusions: Survivors of critical illness from COVID-19 show some persistent long-term impairments in lung function. However, a majority of these tests were normal by 12 months. These patients still had detectable levels of neutralising antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 and all types of IgG at 12 months, but the levels had declined over this time period.

Clinical trial registration: None.

Keywords: COVID-19; antibody; critical illness; immunity; lung function.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antibodies / blood*
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / blood
  • COVID-19 / blood
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis*
  • COVID-19 / immunology*
  • China
  • Critical Illness
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney / physiopathology
  • Liver / physiopathology
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology
  • Survivors*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Walk Test


  • Antibodies
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Cytokines