Most adults with COVID-19 continued to suffer debilitating symptoms after hospital discharge, a small study in Italy has found. 

Investigators followed 143 patients. Fully 87% reported experiencing at least one symptom two months after contracting the disease and more than one month after leaving the hospital. The most common symptoms were fatigue and dyspnea (difficulty breathing), followed by joint pain and chest pain, reported Angelo Carfì, M.D., from Agostino Gemelli University Policlinic, Rome. Worsened quality of life was observed among 44% of study participants.

The results suggest that continued monitoring for long-lasting effects is needed, reported Carfi, a practicing geriatrician. Yet due to the novelty of the disease, most clinicians are currently focused on patients in the acute phase, he added.

In Carfi’s own clinic, doctors schedule a wrap-up visit with COVID-19 patients to scout out persistent problems, he told Medscape Medical News. “On that occasion, the doctor prescribes anything necessary to correct the anomalies found during the full evaluation.” 

The study findings may not be exclusive to COVID-19, as people with pneumonia can also experience lingering health effects, the researchers cautioned. While hospitalized, 73% of the study participants suffered from interstitial pneumonia.

Results can be found online as a research letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association.