Almost three quarters of Covid-19 patients 'still ill months later', study finds

20 August 2020, 16:17

Coronavirus patients were still suffering months later, a study has found
Coronavirus patients were still suffering months later, a study has found. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Almost three quarters of a group of patients admitted to a hospital with coronavirus were still suffering ongoing symptoms three months later, a study has found.

Researchers found that 81 out of 110 patients discharged from Southmead Hospital in Bristol were still experiencing symptoms such as breathlessness, excessive fatigue and muscle aches when invited back to clinic.

Many were also suffering from poor quality of life compared to the rest of the population - struggling to carry out daily tasks such as washing, dressing or going back to work.

Most of the patients did report improvements in their initial symptoms of fever, cough and loss of sense of smell.

Most patients had no evidence of lung scarring or reductions in lung function.

The findings are part of the preliminary results of the North Bristol NHS Trust's Discover project, which is studying the longer-term effects of coronavirus, so-called Long Covid.

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Dr Rebecca Smith, deputy director of research and innovation at North Bristol NHS Trust, said: "There's still so much we don't know about the long-term effects of coronavirus, but this study has given us vital new insight into what challenges patients may face in their recovery and will help us prepare for those needs.

"We're pleased that researchers at Southmead Hospital are leading the way and hope our findings can help patients and their GPs understand the course of post-Covid illness and the role of routine tests."

The research is due to continue at Southmead Hospital, with researchers collaborating with the University of Bristol to look at the participant blood tests, rehabilitation therapies and psychological support.

Dr David Arnold, who is leading the Discover project, said: "This research helps to describe what many coronavirus patients have been telling us: they are still breathless, tired, and not sleeping well months after admission.

"Reassuringly, however, abnormalities on X-rays and breathing tests are rare in this group. Further work in the Discover project will help us to understand why this is, and how we can help coronavirus sufferers."

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A total of 163 patients with coronavirus were recruited to the study, which was funded by the Southmead Hospital Charity, and of those 19 died.

The remainder were invited for a three-month check-up and 110 attended.

Most (74 per cent) had persistent symptoms - notably breathlessness and excessive fatigue - with reduced health-related quality of life.

Only patients who required oxygen therapy in hospital had abnormal radiology, clinical examination or spirometry at follow-up.

Early this month, MPs from the All Party Parliamentary Group on coronavirus heard from previously fit people whose lives have been turned upside down by a host of symptoms.

Claire Hastie, who is a member of a Long Covid Support Group on Facebook, described how she used to cycle 13 miles to work but can no longer walk 13 metres and is now largely confined to a wheelchair with her children providing much of her care.

Dr Jake Suett, a staff grade doctor in anaesthetics and intensive care medicine, said: "I was doing 12-hour shifts in ICU.

"And now a flight of stairs or the food shop is about what I can manage before I have to stop... if I'm on my feet then shortness of breath comes back, chest pain comes back."