More than 70% of COVID-19 patients experience at least one persistent symptom
More than 70% of patients who have recovered from COVID-19 experience at least one persistent symptom for at least 60 days, according to the results of a systematic review recently published in JAMA Network Open.
“With millions of individuals experiencing COVID-19 infection, persistent symptoms are a burden on individual patients and their families, as well as on outpatient care, public health, and the economy,” Tahmina Nasserie, MPH, a PhD candidate in epidemiology at Stanford University, and colleagues wrote.
“The designs of studies reported to date preclude making precise risk estimates about many long-term outcomes, particularly by patient or disease characteristic, but they suggest that the problem of persistent symptoms is substantial,” they wrote.
Nasserie and colleagues screened more than 1,200 related article titles and abstracts from PubMed and Web of Science that were published between Jan. 1, 2020, and March 11, 2021, and examined persistent symptoms among COVID-19 survivors, defined as symptoms persisting for 60 days or more after diagnosis, symptom onset or hospitalization or 30 days or more following recovery from acute illness or hospital discharge. The review included 45 studies reporting 84 clinical signs or symptoms.
A total of 9,751 patients were included in the 45 studies. In 16 studies that mostly comprised patients who were previously hospitalized, the median proportion of patients who had at least one persistent symptom was 72.5% (interquartile range [IQR] = 55%-80%). The most commonly observed symptoms included shortness of breath or dyspnea (median frequency = 36%; IQR = 27.6%-50%), exhaustion or fatigue (40%; IQR = 31%-57%) and sleep disorders (29.4%; IQR = 24.4%-33%), Nasserie and colleagues reported.
They noted several limitations of the study, including an inability to measure duration of persistent symptoms, percentage of symptoms that were resolved and the long-term trajectory of global function and quality of life.
“The findings of this review should help to improve future study quality and reduce heterogeneity in study design and reporting, enabling researchers to better assess the risk of long-term outcomes associated with COVID-19 and physicians to better advise and treat their patients,” the authors wrote.