Austrian researchers have recruited coronavirus patients who had been admitted to hospital and on Monday at the European Respiratory Society’s international congress they are expected to report on the first 86 patients registered between April 29 and June 9.
Patients were to return for an assessment six, 12 and 24 weeks after discharge, in what would be the first prospective follow-up of people infected with Covid-19.
Clinical examinations, laboratory tests, analysis of the amounts of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the arterial blood and pulmonary function tests were performed during these visits.
By the time of their first visit, more than half of the patients had at least one persistent symptom, mainly shortness of breath and cough, and CT scans still showed lung damage in 88% of patients.
But by the time of their next visit, 12 weeks after discharge, symptoms had improved and lung damage was reduced to 56%.
A total of 56 patients (65%) had persistent symptoms at the time of their six-week visit. Shortness of breath was the most common symptom (40 patients, 47 percent), followed by cough (13 patients, 15 percent).
At the 12-week visit, shortness of breath had improved and was present in 31 patients (39 percent), but 13 patients (15 percent) were still coughing.
At this point, it is too early to have the results of the 24 week evaluations.
Dr Sabina Sahanic, clinical doctoral student at Innsbruck University Clinic and part of the team that conducted the study, said: “The bad news is that people have lung failure due to Covid-19 weeks after their leave; the good news is that the impairment tends to get better over time, which suggests that the lungs have a mechanism for repairing themselves. ”
At the six-week visit, echocardiograms showed that 48 patients (58.5%) had dysfunction of the left ventricle of the heart to the point where it relaxes and dilates (diastole).
Biological indicators of heart damage, blood clots, and inflammation were all significantly elevated.
Dr Sahanic added: “Fortunately, in the Innsbruck cohort, we did not observe any serious cardiac dysfunction associated with coronavirus in the post-acute phase.
“The diastolic dysfunction that we observed also tends to improve over time. “
A separate presentation to congress said the earlier Covid-19 patients started a pulmonary rehabilitation program after they stopped functioning on a ventilator, the better and faster their recovery.
Yara Al Chikhanie, a doctoral student at the Dieulefit Sante pulmonary rehabilitation clinic and Hp2 laboratory at the University of Grenoble Alpes in France, used a walking test to assess the weekly progress of 19 patients who spent an average of three weeks in intensive care. and two weeks in a pulmonary room before being transferred to a pulmonary rehabilitation clinic.
She said: “The most important result is that patients admitted to pulmonary rehabilitation shortly after leaving intensive care progress more rapidly than those who spent a longer period in the pulmonary department where they were inactive.
“The earlier and the longer the rehabilitation began, the faster and better the improvement in walking, breathing and muscle gain in patients.
“Patients who started rehabilitation within a week of stopping their ventilator progressed faster than those who entered after two weeks.
“But how quickly they can begin rehabilitation depends on whether patients are deemed medically stable by their doctors.
“Despite the significant improvement, the average three-week rehabilitation period was not enough for them to make a full recovery. “