Long COVID’s daunting toll seen in study of pandemic’s earliest patients

Authors: Melissa Healy   6 hrs ago

COVID-19 patients in Wuhan were among the pandemic’s first victims, and a comprehensive new study finds that a year after shaking the coronavirus, survivors were more likely than their uninfected peers to suffer from mobility problems, pain or discomfort, anxiety and depression.

detailed accounting of 1,276 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in the pandemic’s opening months reveals that a full year later, almost half continued to report at least one lingering health problem that is now considered a symptom of “long COVID.”

One out of five said they had continued fatigue and/or muscle weakness, and 17% said they were still experiencing sleep difficulties. Just over one in four said they were suffering anxiety or depression in the wake of their bout with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

For the growing number of patients who identify themselves as COVID “long haulers,” the new accounting offers cause for optimism — and concern. The period from six to 12 months after infection brought improvement for many. But most patients struggling with symptoms at the six-month mark were not yet well six months later.

The findings, catalogued by a team of Chinese researchers, were published late Thursday in the medical journal Lancet.

“This is not good news,” said David Putrino, a rehabilitation specialist who works with COVID long haulers at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. “If you run the numbers here, about one-third of the group that had persistent symptoms are getting better after 12 months, while two-thirds are not.”

Putrino also called the findings a “wake-up call” to public health officials that even when the pandemic is over — a distant enough prospect in the midst of a fourth wave of infections — its downstream consequences will not be.

“We’re going to need resources for many years to come to deal with these patients,” he said.

There will be a lot of them. More than 87,000 COVID-19 patients are being hospitalized each day in the United States, and 2.7 million have receiving hospital care in the past year alone.

The half who contend with persistent symptoms will show up in doctors’ offices with clusters of vague and perplexing complaints including brain fog, heart palpitations, pain and exhaustion. And despite emerging evidence that time and specialized treatment can help many to improve, few will have the wherewithal to spend months in intensive rehabilitation for their symptoms, Putrino said.

An editorial published alongside the new study noted that only 0.4% of COVID long haulers are receiving rehabilitative treatment for their symptoms.

Even as scientists puzzle over the common biological mechanisms of long COVID’s diverse symptoms, healthcare providers “must acknowledge and validate the toll of the persistent symptoms of long COVID on patients, and health systems need to be prepared to meet individualised, patient-oriented goals, with an appropriately trained workforce,” Lancet’s editors wrote.

The new research also offered some glimmers of hope.

When the study’s COVID-19 patients were examined at six months, 68% said they had at least one of 15 symptoms considered hallmarks of long COVID, which is also known as Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID, or PASC. At one year, 49% were still afflicted by at least one of those symptoms.

The proportion of patients with ongoing muscle weakness and fatigue dropped from 52% to 20% during that time. Patients experiencing loss of smell dropped from 11% to 4%, and those afflicted with sleep problems fell from 27% to 17%. The 22% who reported hair loss at six months dwindled to 11% a full year out.

At the same time, the numbers of patients reporting breathing difficulties saw a slight increase, rising from 26% at six months to 30% after a year. Likewise, patients who reported new depression or anxiety increased from 23% to 26% during that period.

Study co-author Xiaoying Gu from the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing said the slight uptick in anxiety and depression was, like all of long COVID’s symptoms, hard to explain.

The psychiatric symptoms “could be caused by a biological process linked to the virus infection itself, or the body’s immune response to it,” he said. “Or they could be linked to reduced social contact, loneliness, incomplete recovery of physical health or loss of employment associated with illness.”

Patients who required mechanical ventilation were more likely than those with less severe illness to have measurable lung impairment and abnormal chest X-rays at both six and 12 months.

But in the tally of more subjective long COVID symptoms, the difference between the most severely ill and those who required no supplemental oxygen at all was very small.

That finding underscores the fact that even patients who are only mildly ill are at risk of developing a range of persistent symptoms.

Of the study population’s 479 patients who held jobs when the pandemic struck, 88% had returned to work a year after their illness. Most of the 57 who did not return said they either could not or were unwilling to do the tasks required of them.

The findings from the Wuhan patients also tracked with the widespread observation that persistent post-COVID infection symptoms are more common in women than in men. Women who had been hospitalized for COVID-19 were twice as likely as their male counterparts to report depression or anxiety 12 months later. In addition, they were close to three times as likely to show evidence of impaired lung function, and 43% more likely to report symptoms of fatigue and muscle weakness.

All of the study’s participants were treated at a single hospital in Wuhan, where reports of a mysterious new form of pneumonia first surfaced in December 2019. The researchers followed a large group of patients sickened in the first five months that the outbreak.

That makes the Lancet report one of the earliest and largest accounts of lingering COVID-19 symptoms to be tallied and vetted by other researchers, and the only one to compare such patients to a group of uninfected peers matched on a wide range of demographic and health attributes.

One thing is already clear, the journal editors noted: “Long COVID is a modern medical challenge of the first order.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

The incidence, clinical characteristics, and outcomes of pneumothorax in hospitalized COVID-19 patients: A systematic review

Authors: Woon H. Chong,a,⁎Biplab K. Saha,bKurt Hu,c and Amit Chopraa

Abstract

Background

Pneumothorax has been frequently described as a complication of COVID-19 infections.

Objective

In this systematic review, we describe the incidence, clinical characteristics, and outcomes of COVID-19-related pneumothorax.

Methods

Studies were identified through MEDLINE, Pubmed, and Google Scholar databases using keywords of “COVID-19,” “SARS-CoV-2,” “pneumothorax,” “pneumomediastinum,” and “barotrauma” from January 1st, 2020 to January 30th, 2021.

Results

Among the nine observational studies, the incidence of pneumothorax is low at 0.3% in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. However, the incidence of pneumothorax increases to 12.8–23.8% in those requiring invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV) with a high mortality rate up to 100%. COVID-19-related pneumothorax tends to be unilateral and right-sided. Age, pre-existing lung diseases, and active smoking status are not shown to be risk factors. The time to pneumothorax diagnosis is around 9.0–19.6 days from admission and 5.4 days after IMV initiation. COVID-19-related pneumothoraces are associated with prolonged hospitalization, increased likelihood of ICU admission and death, especially among the elderly.

Conclusion

COVID-19-related pneumothorax likely signify greater disease severity. With the high variability of COVID-19-related pneumothorax incidence described, a well-designed study is required to better assess the significance of COVID-19-related pneumothorax.

For More Information: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8088235/

Severe covid-19 pneumonia: pathogenesis and clinical management

Authors: Amy H Attaway, assistant professor of medicine, associate director, COPD center1,  Rachel G Scheraga, assistant professor of medicine2,  Adarsh Bhimraj, head, section of neurological infections; staff, infectious diseases1,  Michelle Biehl, associate staff, pulmonary and critical care medicine; director, post ICU recovery clinic1,  Umur Hatipoğlu, associate professor of medicine; director, respiratory therapy; director, COPD center1

Abstract

Severe covid-19 pneumonia has posed critical challenges for the research and medical communities. Older age, male sex, and comorbidities increase the risk for severe disease. For people hospitalized with covid-19, 15-30% will go on to develop covid-19 associated acute respiratory distress syndrome (CARDS). Autopsy studies of patients who died of severe SARS CoV-2 infection reveal presence of diffuse alveolar damage consistent with ARDS but with a higher thrombus burden in pulmonary capillaries. When used appropriately, high flow nasal cannula (HFNC) may allow CARDS patients to avoid intubation, and does not increase risk for disease transmission. During invasive mechanical ventilation, low tidal volume ventilation and positive end expiratory pressure (PEEP) titration to optimize oxygenation are recommended. Dexamethasone treatment improves mortality for the treatment of severe and critical covid-19, while remdesivir may have modest benefit in time to recovery in patients with severe disease but shows no statistically significant benefit in mortality or other clinical outcomes. Covid-19 survivors, especially patients with ARDS, are at high risk for long term physical and mental impairments, and an interdisciplinary approach is essential for critical illness recovery.

Introduction

The ongoing outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (covid-19) has posed immense challenges for the research and medical communities. This review focuses on the epidemiologic and clinical features of covid-19, the pathophysiologic mechanisms, inpatient respiratory support, and the evidence to date on drug treatments. It also covers the recovery and long term management of patients with covid-19 pneumonia. The review is aimed at clinicians and intensivists caring for patients with severe covid-19 pneumonia as defined by the National Institutes of Health,1 referring to individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection confirmed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing who have SpO2 <94% on room air at sea level, a ratio of arterial partial pressure of oxygen to fraction of inspired oxygen (PaO2/FiO2) <300 mm Hg, respiratory frequency >30 breaths/min, or lung infiltrates >50%.

For More Information: https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n436

COVID-19: Current understanding of its Pathophysiology, Clinical presentation and Treatment

Authors: Anant Parasher

Abstract

Background The severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus-2 is a novel coronavirus belonging to the family Coronaviridae and is now known to be responsible for the outbreak of a series of recent acute atypical respiratory infections originating in Wuhan, China. The disease caused by this virus, termed coronavirus disease 19 or simply COVID-19, has rapidly spread throughout the world at an alarming pace and has been declared a pandemic by the WHO on March 11, 2020. In this review, an update on the pathophysiology, clinical presentation and the most recent management strategies for COVID-19 has been described.

Results and Conclusions COVID-19 has now spread globally with increasing morbidity and mortality among all populations. In the absence of a proper and effective antibody test, the diagnosis is presently based on a reverse-transcription PCR of nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swab samples. The clinical spectrum of the disease presents in the form of a mild, moderate or severe illness. Most patients are either asymptomatic carriers who despite being without symptoms have the potential to be infectious to others coming in close contact, or have a mild influenza-like illness which cannot be differentiated from a simple upper respiratory tract infection. Moderate and severe cases require hospitalisation as well as intensive therapy which includes non-invasive as well as invasive ventilation, along with antipyretics, antivirals, antibiotics and steroids. Complicated cases may require treatment by immunomodulatory drugs and plasma exchange therapy. The search for an effective vaccine for COVID-19 is presently in full swing, with pharmaceutical corporations having started human trials in many countries.

This article is made freely available for use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.

For More Information:

https://bmj.com/coronavirus/usage

http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/postgradmedj-2020-138577

https://pmj.bmj.com/content/97/1147/312