The lungs and hearts of patients damaged by the coronavirus improve over time, a study has shown.
Researchers in Austria recruited coronavirus patients who had been admitted to hospital. The patients were scheduled to return for evaluation 6, 12 and 24 weeks after being discharged, in what is said to be the first prospective follow-up of people infected with COVID-19, which will be presented at today's European Respiratory Society International Congress.
Clinical examinations, laboratory tests, analysis of the amounts of oxygen and carbon dioxide in arterial blood, and lung function tests were carried out during these visits.
At the time of their first visit, more than half of the patients had at least one persistent symptom, predominantly breathlessness and coughing, and CT scans still showed lung damage in 88% of patients. But by the time of their next visit, 12 weeks after discharge, the symptoms had improved, and lung damage was reduced to 56%.
Dr Sabina Sahanic, a clinical PhD student at the University Clinic in Innsbruck and part of the team that carried out the study, said: "The bad news is that people show lung impairment from COVID-19 weeks after discharge; the good news is that the impairment tends to ameliorate over time, which suggests the lungs have a mechanism for repairing themselves."
A separate presentation to the congress said that the sooner COVID-19 patients started a pulmonary rehabilitation programme after coming off ventilators, the better and faster their recovery.
Yara Al Chikhanie, a PhD student at the Dieulefit Sante clinic for pulmonary rehabilitation and the Hp2 Lab at the Grenoble Alps University in France, used a walking test to evaluate the weekly progress of 19 patients who had spent an average of three weeks in intensive care and two weeks in a pulmonary ward before being transferred to a clinic for pulmonary rehabilitation.
She said: "The most important finding was that patients who were admitted to pulmonary rehabilitation shortly after leaving intensive care progressed faster than those who spent a longer period in the pulmonary ward where they remained inactive. The sooner rehabilitation started and the longer it lasted, the faster and better was the improvement in patients' walking and breathing capacities and muscle gain."
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Source: The Independent, 7 September 2020