According to a study published in The Lancet journal on Friday has found that around half the people hospitalised with coronavirus experience at least one symptom that is persitant up to 12 months after the infection.
The research was conducted on 1,276 patients from Wuhan, China that shows around one in three people still experienced shortness of breath after 12 months, while lung damages persevered in some patients, especially those who had experienced the most severe illness with COVID-19.
The coronavirus surviors were found to be less healthier than people from the wider community who had been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19
Professor Bin Cao, from China-Japan Friendship Hospital said, “Our study is the largest to date to assess the health outcomes of hospitalised COVID-19 survivors after 12 months of becoming ill.”
“While most had made a good recovery, health problems persisted in some patients, especially those who had been critically ill during their hospital stay,” Cao said.
The study findings suggest that for some patients the recovery will take longer than a year and this should be taken into account when delivery of healthcare services post-pandemic will be planned.
The same team from the previous study that was conducted on 1,733 hospitalised coronavirus survivors found that around three-quarters of patients had persistent health problems after six months of infection.
The data of the study was analysed from the patients who had been discharged from hospital between January 7 and May 29, 2020. The patients underwent detailed health check ups at six and 12 months to assess any ongoing symptoms and their health-related quality of life.
These check ups include face-to-face physical examinations, questionnaires, lab tests and a six-minute walking test to gauge patients’ endurance levels. For an average of 185 days and 349 days the patient outcomes were traced. In the study of 57 years the average age of patients were included.
The researchers said, regardless of the severity of initial COVID-19 disease, many symptoms resolved over time.
However, it was found that the proportion of patients still experiencing at least one symptom after one year fell from 68 per cent at six months to 49 per cent at 12 months, they said.
Regardless of the severity of COVID-19 the patients had experienced this decrease was observed.
Almost one-third of patients reported experiencing shortness of breath at 12 months, which was slightly higher than at six months, according to the researchers.
They said this was more dominant in patients who had been the most severely ill and had been on a ventilator during their time in hospital, compared to those who had not required oxygen treatment. At the six-month check, 349 study participants underwent a lung function test and 244 of those patients completed the same test at 12 months.
The proportion of patients experiencing diffusion impairment did not improve from six months to 12 months and this was seen across all groups regardless of how ill they had been when hospitalised. Also at the six-month check, 353 study participants underwent a chest CT scan.
The researchers found that around one half of them showed lung abnormalities on their scan. Of the 118 patients who completed the scan at 12 months, the proportion of patients with abnormalities decreased substantially across all groups but was still high, particularly in the most critically ill group, they said. According to the study, women were 1.4 times more likely to report fatigue or muscle weakness, twice as likely to report anxiety or depression as compared with men and almost three times as likely to have lung diffusion impairment after 12 months.
People who had been treated with corticosteroids during the acute phase of their illness with COVID-19 were 1.5 times as likely to experience fatigue or muscle weakness after 12 months, compared to those who had not been treated during their illness.
The researchers found that slightly more patients experienced anxiety or depression at one year than at six months and the proportion was much greater in COVID-19 survivors than in matched people from the wider community.
“We do not yet fully understand why psychiatric symptoms are slightly more common at one year than at six months in COVID-19 survivors,” said Xiaoying Gu, one of the study’s authors, from China-Japan Friendship Hospital.
“These could be caused by a biological process linked to the virus infection itself, or the body’s immune response to it. Or they could be linked to reduced social contact, loneliness, incomplete recovery of physical health or loss of employment associated with illness,” Gu said.
They said, the authors acknowledged that their study was focused on a single hospital and so patient outcomes may not be generalisable to other settings. The study included only a small number of patients who had been admitted to intensive care and findings relating to the most critically ill patients should be interpreted with caution.