Patients suffering from ‘long covid’ seven weeks after discharge

11 November 2020

Two out of three patients who are hospitalised due to COVID-19 are still suffering from symptoms more than seven weeks after being discharged from Hospital, according to new data.

The research, conducted by clinicians at the Royal Free London (RFL) and UCLH, shows that 54 days after discharge, 69% of patients were still experiencing fatigue and 53% were suffering from breathlessness, while 34% still had a cough.

The research, led by RFL respiratory consultants Dr Swapna Mandal and Professor John Hurst from UCL, has now been published in the medical journal Thorax.

The teams organised a “post-COVID” follow up clinic to review patients and reviewed the information collected. They looked at a total of 384 patients who had been treated for COVID-19 at either Barnet Hospital, the Royal Free Hospital or University College Hospital.

Patients came to hospital for a chest x-ray and blood tests and were telephoned by a member of the clinical team on average 54 days after they had left hospital.

The research showed that for those patients whose chest x-ray was still showing signs of infection when they were discharged, 62% had a normal x-ray when it was repeated, while the remainder were still showing some inflammation. Almost one in ten of the patients were suffering from more inflammation than when they were discharged.

Dr Mandal said that this data shows so-called ‘long covid’ is a real phenomenon and that further research is needed to understand how the symptoms of COVID-19 can be treated in the long-term.

She said: “Patients whose COVID-19 illness is serious enough for them to require hospital care often continue to suffer significant symptoms for many weeks after their discharge. I lead a post-COVID-19 clinic for those patients who continue to require consultant care after they have left hospital.”

Professor Hurst said: “Understanding ‘long covid’ is critical in helping people who have been through this life-changing experience return to health, while ‘rapid roll-out of this follow-up service shows how our clinical teams worked together to deliver an innovative service during a period of unprecedented demand on our staff.”

UCLH respiratory consultant Melissa Heightman, a study co-author, said: “This study describes the extent of persistent symptoms eight weeks after hospital discharge with Covid-19 and we now appreciate that many patients continue to be unwell even six months following infection. This is why we felt the need to set up a COVID-19 follow up service at UCLH, and the service has continued to evolve to meet the complex needs of patients with post-COVID-19 syndrome whether they were discharged from hospital or managed in the community.”