Most patients hospitalised for Covid-19 infection return to full health, but one in three may develop lung damage even after a year, according to a study published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
People are most commonly hospitalised for Covid-19 infection when it affects the lungs — termed Covid-19 pneumonia.A The study showed that even after a year, a third of patients’ measures of lung function were reduced, particularly how efficiently oxygen is transferred in the lungs into the blood. This was more frequently found in women than in men.
In around a quarter of patients CT scans showed there were still small areas of change in the lungs, and this was more common in patients with more severe lung changes at time of hospitalisation. About 5 per cent of patients still reported breathlessness, found researchers from the University of Southampton in the UK.
“The majority of patients with severe Covid-19 pneumonia appeared to fully recover, although for some patients this took many months. Women were more likely to have persistent reductions in lung function tests and further investigation is needed to understand if there is a sex specific difference in how patient’s recover,” said Mark Jones, Associate Professor in Respiratory Medicine at the varsity.
“We also don’t yet know what happens beyond 12 months and this will need ongoing study,” Jones added.
The team worked with collaborators in Wuhan, China, to investigate the natural history of recovery from severe Covid-19 pneumonia up to one year after hospitalisation. About 83 patients were recruited after they were discharged from hospital following severe Covid-19 pneumonia and were followed up after three, six, nine and twelve months.
The research provides evidence that routine respiratory follow-up of patients hospitalised with Covid-19-pneumonia is required. It also highlights the need for exploring treatment strategies, including the role of exercise programmes to prevent the development of long term Covid-19 related lung changes.