Image of Hallie C. Prescott, M.D., MSc
Hallie C. Prescott, M.D., MSc

An evaluation of almost 500 COVID-19 survivors found that fully half had at least one new, coronavirus-related symptom four months after discharge.

Patients hospitalized for COVID-19 at Bicêtre Hospital in Paris during spring 2020 were asked to complete a symptoms survey. About 180 qualified patients also participated in a comprehensive clinical evaluation.

The most common symptoms reported in the survey were fatigue (31%), cognitive conditions (21%), and shortness of breath (16%), said corresponding author Hallie C. Prescott, M.D., MSc, of the University of Michigan. Survey respondents reported the most difficulty with physical function in the quality-of-life domain, and reduced motivation in the fatigue domain.

“These scores best convey some of the key consequences of long COVID, because return to normal living and absence of fatigue are viewed by patients as among the most important factors for overall quality of life after critical illness,” Prescott wrote in a JAMA editorial.

Among patients who participated in the clinical portion of the study, 54% were found to have sleep disturbance, and 38% had cognitive impairment. Significant numbers of the 94 study participants who had been admitted to an intensive care unit were found to have developed anxiety, depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder. Muscle weakness was found in 27% of 51 patients who had been intubated — a normal risk with intubation for any reason, the authors noted.

Additional results showed chest computed tomography scan abnormalities in 63% of patients, but pulmonary function was commonly preserved. Impaired cardiac and kidney function were not common.

The study was conducted at a time of high case rates when no effective treatment had yet been identified, Prescott noted. The “prevalence of symptoms will undoubtedly vary across settings and over time,” she said.

The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine