Manoj Sivan, M.D.

Many patients who recover from severe COVID-19 will likely require long-term rehabilitation, based on the experiences of people hospitalized during previous coronavirus outbreaks.

In the first six months after hospitalization, 27% of patients who recovered from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome had respiratory and exercise capacity problems. At six months and beyond, up to one third exhibited mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. What’s more, quality of life remained impaired at one year after discharge, reported Manoj Sivan, M.D., from the University of Leeds, England.

Clinicians who provide rehabilitative care should anticipate similar health problems in COVID-19 survivors and prepare accordingly, said Sivan and colleagues. 

“Rehabilitation clinicians and services should plan ahead for timely follow-up, screening and interventions to enable best possible recovery and quality of life for these individuals,” he wrote.

To optimize physical, psychological and functional recovery after hospital discharge, the authors recommend post-acute rehabilitation in either rehabilitation or respiratory units and long-term rehabilitation interventions in the community. 

Ideal multidisciplinary rehabilitation teams should include physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, speech and language therapists, dietitians, and physicians in rehabilitation medicine. These services must in turn be linked to acute respiratory and intensive care teams and other relevant rehabilitation teams, the researchers concluded.

Full findings were published in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine.