A new study has found that one-third of COVID-19 patients discharged from hospital still present lung changes one year on
83 patients were recruited after they were discharged from hospital and were followed up after 3, six, nine and 12 months to undergo clinical assessment as well as measures of how well the lungs function, a CT scan of their chest to take a picture of the lungs, and a walking test.
Over 12 months there was an improvement in symptoms, exercise capacity, and COVID-19 related CT changes, in most patients.
By 12 months about 5% of patients still reported breathlessness and a third of patients’ measures of lung function were still reduced – this was more frequently found in women than in men.
In around a quarter of patients, their CT scans showed there were still small areas of change in the lungs, and this was more common in patients with more severe lung changes at the time of hospitalisation.
Dr Mark Jones, Associate Professor in Respiratory Medicine at the University of Southampton and NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre who co-led the study said, “the majority of patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia appeared to fully recover, although for some patients this took many months. Women were more likely to have persistent reductions in lung function tests and further investigation is needed to understand if there is a sex-specific difference in how patient’s recover. We also don’t yet know what happens beyond 12 months and this will need ongoing study.”
Dr Yihua Wang, Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Southampton and NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre who co-led the study explained, “firstly, our research provides evidence that routine respiratory follow-up of patients hospitalised with COVID-19-pneumonia is required.
“Secondly, given the length of time it takes for some patients to recover it suggests that research into whether exercise programmes help patients recover more quickly is required. Finally, it highlights the need for treatment strategies to prevent the development of long term COVID-19 related lung changes.”
The full study has been published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
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