Many COVID-19 patients who required hospitalization are grappling with coughs or rapid heartbeats, fatigue and financial problems several months after being discharged, according to a federally supported study that examines the lingering toll of the virus.
The National Institutes of Health said its “long COVID” study of over 800 patients found that even after six months, 75% of patients had cardiopulmonary problems, such as coughing, swelling in their legs or feet and the need for home oxygen support.
Just over half felt fatigue, and slightly less than half, or 47%, had trouble doing everyday activities such as eating, preparing meals, bathing, getting dressed or walking across a room.
The findings underscore the need for follow-up care even after people kick the virus.
“My clinic patients often want to know how soon they’ll get back to their usual health,” said Andrew J. Admon, the study’s first author and a pulmonologist at Lieutenant Colonel Charles S. Kettles VA Medical Center in Michigan. “Based on these data, it seems that many people hospitalized for COVID-19 should expect symptoms to last for up to six months or even longer.”
The study was based on follow-up surveys with 825 adults who received treatment for COVID at one of 44 medical centers in the U.S. between August 2020 and July 2021.
Patients were surveyed one, three and six months after leaving the hospital for general or intensive care treatment.
In some cases, the problems were worse further out from discharge or had compounded.
More than half of patients, 56%, ran into a financial problem such as being unable to pay bills compared with 66% who had similar problems one month after getting out of the hospital. Black and Hispanic patients were likelier to report financial hardships.
The study adds to the emerging data on long COVID as countries try to move on from the pandemic.
Studies such as the Household Pulse Survey say half of U.S. adults have reported having COVID, and international data show that 6%-7% of adults who have had symptomatic coronavirus infections
still had symptoms months later, according to NIH.
A U.K. study last month found that patients with COVID-19 were four times likelier to develop major cardiovascular disease in the acute phase of their infection than those uninfected. Even after the worst of their illness was over, they were 40% likelier to experience cardiac problems than the control group.
The research comes on top of a massive study of U.S. veterans last year that found those infected by the coronavirus were at greater risk of heart attack, stroke, blood clots, irregular heartbeats and myocarditis, which is the inflammation of the heart muscle.
Doctors hypothesize the virus can infect the heart cells by unlocking key cell receptors, creating an invasion of the organ. In other cases, inflammation from the immune response may cause collateral damage in the heart.
For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.