The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has posted detailed interim guidance for clinicians on evaluating and caring for patients who experience lasting symptoms after recovering from COVID-19.

Clinical understanding of post-acute COVID is still evolving, the agency noted. Known by other names such as long COVID or post-acute COVID syndrome, it includes persistent or new symptoms that linger more than four weeks after initial diagnosis, according to current clinical consensus. The conditions and symptoms are varied, can strike in mild to severe cases, and may even be common. In a study of nearly two million U.S. patients published this week, nearly one fourth of COVID-19 patients were affected by long-term health issues.

The CDC’s new guidance covers considerations for taking a patient history and physical exam, assessment and testing, symptom management, and public health recommendation and resources. Based on the most current information, it encourages clinicians to be aware of the following (summarized):

  • Many post-COVID conditions can be managed by primary care providers, with patient-centered approaches to optimize the quality of life and function.
  • Objective laboratory or imaging findings should not be used as the only measure or assessment of a patient’s well-being. Lack of laboratory or imaging abnormalities does not invalidate the existence, severity or importance of a patient’s symptoms or conditions.
  • Healthcare professionals and patients are encouraged to set achievable goals through shared decision-making.
  • Healthcare professionals are encouraged to approach treatment by focusing on specific symptoms, such as headache, or conditions, such as dysautonomia.
  • A comprehensive management plan focusing on improving physical, mental and social well-being may be helpful for some patients.
  • Understanding of post-COVID conditions remains incomplete and guidance for healthcare professionals will likely change over time as the evidence evolves.