One in two hospitalised COVID-19 patients develop complications

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A study of more than 70,000 people in the UK has found that one in two patients hospitalised with COVID-19 developed at least one complication

The latest results come from an ongoing study called ISARIC4C, which was funded by the Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research. Researchers examined COVID-19 cases between 17th January and 4th August 2020.

Complications were high even in young healthy individuals, with 27% of 19-29-year-olds and 37% of 30-39-year-olds. Acute complications were associated with 13% of 19-29-year-olds and 17% of 30-39-year-olds. Overall, complications occurred in 50% of all participants, including in 44% of participants who survived.

The most common complications were:

  • Renal (24%)
  • Respiratory (18%)
  • Systemic (16%)
  • Cardiovascular (12%)
  • Neurological (4%)
  • Gastrointestinal or liver (1%)

Complications rose with increasing age, occurring in 39% of 19-49-year-olds, compared to 51% of people aged 50+.

They were also more common in men, 49% under 60 and 55% aged 60 and over, compared to females, 37% under 60 and 48% over 60.

People of white, South Asian, and East Asian ethnicities had similar rates of complications, but rates were highest in Black people at 58% compared to 49% in white patients.

Authors say these complications are likely to have important short and long-term impacts for patients, healthcare utilisation, healthcare system preparedness, and society amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Professor Calum Semple, Chief Investigator from the University of Liverpool, said:

“This work contradicts current narratives that COVID-19 is only dangerous in people with existing comorbidities and the elderly. Dispelling and contributing to the scientific debate around such narratives has become increasingly important. Disease severity at admission is a predictor of complications even in younger adults, so prevention of complications requires a primary prevention strategy, meaning vaccination.

Professor Ewen Harrison, joint senior author from the University of Edinburgh, said:

“Patients in hospital with COVID-19 frequently had complications of the disease, even those in younger age groups and without pre-existing health conditions. These complications could affect any organ, but particularly the kidney, heart and lungs. Those with complications had poorer health on discharge from hospital, and some will have long-term consequences. We now have a more detailed understanding of COVID-19 and the risks posed, even to younger otherwise healthy people.

“Our review highlights some insightful patterns and trends that can inform healthcare systems and policy maker responses to the impacts of COVID-19. Our results can also inform public health messaging on the risk COVID-19 poses to younger otherwise healthy people at a population level, particularly in terms of the importance of vaccination for this group.”



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