LONDON (Reuters) – More than half of COVID-19 patients discharged from hospital still experienced symptoms of breathlessness, fatigue, anxiety and depression for two to three months after their initial infection, according to the findings of a small UK study.
The research, led by scientists at Britain’s Oxford University, looked at the long-term impact of COVID-19 in 58 patients hospitalised with the pandemic disease.
It found that some patients have abnormalities in multiple organs after being infected with the novel coronavirus and that persistent inflammation caused problems for some for months.
The study has not been peer-reviewed by other scientists but was published before review on the MedRxiv website.
“These findings underscore the need to further explore the physiological processes associated with COVID-19 and to develop a holistic, integrated model of clinical care for our patients after they have been discharged from hospital,” said Betty Raman, a doctor at Oxford’s Radcliffe Department of Medicine who co-led the research.
An initial report by Britain’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) published last week showed that ongoing illness after infection with COVID-19, sometimes called “long COVID”, can involve a wide range of symptoms affecting all parts of the body and mind.
The Oxford study’s results showed that two to three months after the onset of the COVID-19, 64% of patients suffered persistent breathlessness and 55% reported significant fatigue.
MRI scans showed abnormalities in the lungs of 60% of the COVID-19 patients, in the kidneys of 29%, in the hearts of 26% and the livers of 10%.
“The abnormalities detected … strongly correlated with serum markers of inflammation,” Raman said. “This suggests a potential link between chronic inflammation and ongoing organ damage among survivors.”
Reporting by Kate Kelland in London. Additional reporting by Ann Maria Shibu in Bengaluru; Editing by Alison Williams and Steve Orlofsky