Life after COVID-19: the road from intensive care back to living - a prospective cohort study

BMJ Open. 2022 Nov 2;12(11):e062332. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-062332.


Objectives: The aim of the study was to evaluate recovery of participation in post-COVID-19 patients during the first year after intensive care unit (ICU) discharge. The secondary aim was to identify the early determinants associated with recovery of participation.

Design: Prospective cohort study.

Setting: COVID-19 post-ICU inpatient rehabilitation in the Netherlands, during the first epidemic wave between April and July 2020, with 1-year follow-up.

Participants: COVID-19 ICU survivors ≥18 years of age needing inpatient rehabilitation.

Main outcome measures: Participation in society was assessed by the 'Utrecht Scale for Evaluation of Rehabilitation-Participation' (USER-P) restrictions scale. Secondary measures of body function impairments (muscle force, pulmonary function, fatigue (Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory), breathlessness (Medical Research Council (MRC) breathlessness scale), pain (Numerical Rating Scale)), activity limitations (6-minute walking test, Patient reported outcomes measurement information system (PROMIS) 8b), personal factors (coping (Utrecht Proactive Coping Scale), anxiety and depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale), post-traumatic stress (Global Psychotrauma Screen-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), cognitive functioning (Checklist for Cognitive Consequences after an ICU-admission)) and social factors were used.

Statistical analyses: linear mixed-effects model, with recovery of participation levels as dependent variable. Patient characteristics in domains of body function, activity limitations, personal and social factors were added as independent variables.

Results: This study included 67 COVID-19 ICU survivors (mean age 62 years, 78% male). Mean USER-P restrictions scores increased over time; mean participation levels increasing from 62.0, 76.5 to 86.1 at 1, 3 and 12 months, respectively. After 1 year, 50% had not fully resumed work and restrictions were reported in physical exercise (51%), household duties (46%) and leisure activities (29%). Self-reported complaints of breathlessness and fatigue, more perceived limitations in daily life, as well as personal factors (less proactive coping style and anxiety/depression complaints) were associated with delayed recovery of participation (all p value <0.05).

Conclusions: This study supports the view that an integral vision of health is important when looking at the long-term consequence of post-ICU COVID-19. Personal factors such as having a less proactive coping style or mental impairments early on contribute to delayed recovery.

Keywords: Adult intensive & critical care; COVID-19; REHABILITATION MEDICINE.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Critical Care
  • Dyspnea
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life