A new study has shown that most patients discharged from hospital after suffering a severe COVID-19 infection appear to regain full health, although up to a third still have evidence of effects on the lungs within a year later.
COVID-19 has infected millions of people around the world. People are most often hospitalized with a COVID-19 infection when it affects the lungs – called COVID-19 pneumonia. Although significant progress has been made in understanding and treating acute COVID-19 pneumonia, very little is known about how long it takes for patients to fully recover and whether changes in the lungs persist. .
In this new study, published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, researchers at the University of Southampton worked with collaborators in Wuhan, China, to investigate the natural history of recovery from severe COVID-19 pneumonia up to one year after hospitalization.
83 patients were recruited after discharge from hospital with severe COVID-19 pneumonia and were followed after three, six, nine and twelve months. At each point, they underwent a clinical evaluation as well as lung function measurements, a CT scan of their chest to take a photo of the lungs, and a walking test.
Over 12 months in most patients, there was improvement in symptoms, exercise ability, and CT changes related to COVID-19. At 12 months, the majority of patients appeared to have fully recovered, although about 5% of patients still reported shortness of breath. One-third of patients’ lung function measurements were further reduced – especially the efficiency of oxygen transfer from the lungs to the blood – and this was more frequently seen in women than in men. In about a quarter of the patients, the CT scan showed that there were still small areas of change in the lungs, which was more common in patients with more severe lung changes at the time of hospitalization.
Dr Mark Jones, associate professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Southampton and the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Center who co-led the study, said “the majority of patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia appeared to make a full recovery , although for some patients it took several months. Women were more likely to experience persistent reductions in lung function tests and more investigation is needed to understand if there is a gender-specific difference in how the patient recovers. Study in progress. “
The researchers acknowledged that this study involved only a small number of patients and that the results will require confirmation in additional studies, but they have identified a number of important implications.
Dr Yihua Wang, Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Southampton and the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Center, who co-led the study, explained: “First, our research provides evidence that routine respiratory monitoring of Second, given the time it takes some patients to recover, this suggests that research into whether exercise programs help patients recover faster is needed. Finally, he stresses the need for treatment strategies to prevent the development of COVID in the long term. 19 lung related changes. “
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